Confusion reigns supreme | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 16, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:09 AM, June 16, 2020

Confusion reigns supreme

No announcement yet on list of red zones or timing of lockdown; countrywide curbs on movement till June 30

There was confusion all around.

As the news of the government preparing a list of virus hotspots to be categorised as red zones spread, the city residents got puzzled and panicked.

"Will the entire area or a certain place be marked as red zone?", "Will it be put under lockdown?", "Will it happen today or tomorrow?", "Will there be curfew?" -- these were the questions that people kept asking throughout yesterday after they heard there would be zone-based lockdown to check further spread of Covid-19.

They called their relatives and even friends in the media to know when the announcement on finalisation of the red, yellow and green zones would come.

"I saw on television that Mirpur is in the red zone. But does it refer to the entire Mirpur or some parts of Mirpur since it is a big area," Sifat Alam, a resident of Mirpur-11, asked this correspondent over phone.

"The rate of infection varies from area to area. How can an entire area be marked as red zone? The government needs to clear the confusion right away," he said.

Till last night, there was no official announcement on the list of areas to be classified as red zones or any specific date for imposing lockdown in such areas.

Sources at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the process of finalising the list of areas is going on, and it may take some more time.

Once the zoning is finalised, a circular will be issued with details of the areas in the red zone.

Yesterday afternoon, the government announced "general holiday" for those in the areas to be classified as red and yellow zones, but changed it hours later.

In a revised circular, the Cabinet Division kept the areas in the yellow zone out of shutdown, and said all the offices and businesses in the areas to be classified as red zones will remain shut for a certain period.

At a meeting on Saturday, the Central Technical Group under the DGHS prepared a primary list of areas all over the country through colour-coded zoning and identified 45 areas in Dhaka North and South City corporations as red zones.

It also identified as red zones 11 areas in Chattogram city, the entire Gazipur district, and several upazilas in Narsingdi and Narayanganj.

According to the meeting minutes of the committee, if 60 or more people per one lakh in a city are infected within 14 days, it will be declared a red zone.

Once finalised, the public administration ministry will issue a gazette notification mentioning when the lockdown will be enforced.

Asked about the list of areas, DGHS Director General Prof Abul Kalam Azad said, "No, it has not been finalised yet. It's a draft."

About enforcing lockdown, he said, "I cannot say when such lockdown will start. It could take two or three days. But we don't think that many areas will be put under lockdown at the same time."

The authorities concerned will find which area should be under lockdown. "Then we will see whether that certain area meets the criteria for being classified as red zone. If so, we will give the nod."

Asked whether an entire area would be put under lockdown at one go, the DG said, "Is it logical if the entire Bangladesh is put in the red zone at the same time? It will not happen simultaneously. It is a continuous process."

To check the spread of coronavirus, the government had earlier decided to categorise areas into red, yellow and green zones on the basis of mortality and infection rates. High-risk areas will be in red zone, moderate-risk ones in yellow zone, and low-risk ones in green zone.

The government has already started enforcing lockdown on a pilot basis in some areas of four districts, including Dhaka. In the first phase, two areas in the capital -- East Rajabazar and Wari -- were put under lockdown with strict restrictions.

"WE SOUGHT SPECIFIC ZONING MAP"

DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said it's essential to provide them with zoning maps specifying particular areas so that they can take proper steps.

"We sought zoning maps from the authorities concerned as areas like Uttara and Mirpur are very big," he told The Daily Star.

He pointed out that it would require at least 48 hours to enforce lockdown after they get the maps.

The mayor also mentioned that they were facing many challenges while enforcing the "experimental lockdown" in East Razbazar.

"We will have to know how much food is needed [for the residents] before enforcing lockdown," he said, adding that they would hold discussions with councillors and take steps after getting the maps.

DSCC Chief Executive Officer Shah Md Emdadul Haque said they received a letter from the DGHS about the red zones but were yet to get any instructions.

A lot of things need to be done before enforcing lockdown in a specific area, he said.

RESTRICTIONS TILL JUNE 30

The government yesterday extended countrywide restrictions on movement of people and "all types of activities" till June 30.

It, however, didn't clarify what it meant by "all types of activities".

No one will be allowed to leave homes from 8:00pm to 6:00am except for emergency. People must wear face masks and follow health guidelines outside their homes, said the revised circular issued by the Cabinet Division yesterday.

The officials and employees of all military or paramilitary, government, semi-government, autonomous, semi-autonomous and private offices in the red zone will enjoy "general holiday" during the period, it mentioned.

This will also be applicable to the residents of these areas, who work in any of the aforementioned offices outside the red zone.

The public administration ministry will take necessary steps in this regard.

However, the government, semi-government, autonomous and private offices in the yellow and green zones will remain open on a limited scale.

"No one will be allowed to leave their workplaces while the restrictions are in place," said the circular.

Those who are sick or at health risks and pregnant women living in these zones will be on leave.

The offices of law enforcement agencies and emergency services and movement of their staffers and vehicles will remain outside the purview of the restrictions.

Markets, groceries and shopping malls must close by 4:00pm and social distancing has to be maintained in those places during the opening hours, said the circular.

HC ORDER

The High Court yesterday refrained from passing any order on the writ petition that sought a directive on the government to put the entire Dhaka city under lockdown to contain further spread of Covid-19.

As the government has decided to categorise the Dhaka city areas into red, yellow and green zones, this court will not interfere with the matter, the HC said in the order.

The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim held a virtual hearing and passed "no order" on the writ petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer Mahbubul Islam on June 11.

(Helemul Alam and Moudud Ahmmed Sujan contributed to this report)

 

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