Recommendation for Lockdown: Mango gets in the way in 7 districts
Despite the health directorate's strong recommendations for strict lockdown, officials in seven districts of Rajshahi and Khulna divisions opposed its enforcement right now, saying it will deal a heavy blow to around Tk 3,000-crore mango trade in the regions.
The Epidemiology and Public Health Committee of the DGHS on Saturday recommended enforcing lockdown in Naogaon, Rajshahi, Natore, Kushtia, Jashore, Khulna and Satkhira due to higher Covid positivity rates in the districts over the last few days.
At a virtual meeting with DGHS high-ups yesterday, the officials of these districts argued that if the trade of mango, a major cash crop of the regions, is hampered, thousands will lose their livelihoods.
They spoke in favour of observing the situation closely and allowing mango trade maintaining the health safety guidelines. However, the civil surgeon in Satkhira backed the recommendation for imposing lockdown in the district.
Asked, DGHS Director General Prof ABM Khurshid Alam said, "We've got experts' recommendations as well as opinions from the local officials. We will finalise a proposal tomorrow [today] and send it to the health ministry. The final decision will come from the Cabinet Division."
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Division yesterday extended the countrywide restrictions on movement for another week till June 6 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
It asked the authorities concerned to take necessary steps in this regard.
At yesterday's meeting, most of the local health officials, argued that the Covid situation in their districts is not out of control yet.
Talking to this newspaper, Abdul Jalil, deputy commissioner in Rajshahi, said, "It is difficult to decide on a strict lockdown at this moment… The mango trade involves crores of taka and livelihoods of thousands of people."
He claimed that the coronavirus situation was not yet alarming and said they would prefer lives over livelihoods only when they think the situation is beyond control.
Contacted, Habibul Ahsan Talukder, Rajshahi divisional director of the DGHS, said, "The number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalisation is still bearable though the number of infections is high."
He said lockdown was the best solution but it would make things tough for most people who need to go out and work to earn a living.
According to health officials in Rajshahi, the infection rate in the region was 43 percent yesterday as the results of 190 out of 435 samples came positive.
Chapainawabganj, a major mango-producing district in the region, was put under a strict lockdown for a week following a surge in Covid cases. The lockdown ends today.
At least seven cases of the Indian Covid variant have been detected so far in the district. None of the infected people visited India in recent times.
First detected on May 8 in the country, a total of 20 cases of the Indian variant have been found in 10 districts most of which share border with India.
Yesterday, the Covid positivity rate was 34 percent in Chapainawabganj.
"Lockdown means loss for everyone. Nobody wants it. We will sit to discuss the situation tomorrow [today]," said Dr Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury, civil surgeon in the district.
However, Hussain Shafaat, civil surgeon in Satkhira, was in favour of imposing lockdown in the district as the positivity rate was over 22 percent with Covid claiming at least four lives in the district yesterday.
"As the positivity rate is very high in Satkhira and the hospitals are overburdened, I proposed imposing lockdown here. We will discuss this issue at a meeting of the district's Covid control committee tomorrow [today]," he said.
Officials in Khulna, Jashore and Kushtia said the government should closely observe the Covid situation in the region and wait for a few more days before imposing lockdown.
The Covid positivity rate in the region was around 25 percent yesterday, according to health officials.
Meanwhile, the government decided to extend the ban on travel to India through land ports till June 14 in view of the current Covid situation.
Amid a spike in Covid cases in neighbouring India, Bangladesh has kept its border with India closed since April 26.
However, many people in six districts of Khulna division continue to illegally travel to and from India, raising the risk of transmission of the Indian variant, reports our correspondent from Kushtia.
The six bordering districts are: Satkhira, Jashore, Jhenaidah, Kushtia, Meherpur and Chuadanga.
Contacted, Border Guard Bangladesh Battalion-58 Director Kamrul Hasan admitted that many Bangladeshi nationals have been returning from India, crossing the border illegally.
He also mentioned that a total of 725 Bangladeshis have returned through Darshana border point since May 17. All of them were kept in quarantine.
[Amanur Aman from Kushtia and Dipankar Roy from Khulna contributed to this report]