Covid-19 Surge: As if Eid will give it a break
Relaxing the ongoing restrictions for eight days from tomorrow for the Eid-ul-Azha, the government yesterday decided to enforce a stricter lockdown across the country for two weeks from July 23 to rein in Covid infections.
The decision came at a time when the country logged 12,198 daily Covid cases and 203 deaths. A total of 1.34 lakh people got infected with the virus and 2,339 died in only 13 days from July 1.
The nationwide lockdown, imposed on July 1 to curb the surge in virus cases and deaths, ends today.
Health experts had earlier suggested continuing the lockdown, instead of relaxing it, to prevent further deterioration in the Covid situation.
They feared that the situation might turn grave in the coming week due to relaxation of restrictions with the healthcare system already under severe stress amid a surge in patients all over the country.
Yesterday, the Cabinet Division issued a gazette notification relaxing the restrictions for the Eid-ul-Azha to be celebrated on July 21. It also issued a set of directives on the stricter lockdown to be imposed on July 23.
"For the Eid-ul-Azha celebrations, all the restrictions have been relaxed from July 14 midnight till 6:00am on July 23, allowing public movement and economic activities ahead of the festival," reads the notification.
"But people will have to remain cautious and strictly maintain the health safety guidelines, including wearing face masks, during this period."
It further said that taking into consideration the overall Covid situation, restrictions will be re-imposed at 6:00am on July 23 and stay in force till August 5 midnight.
The Cabinet Division issued 23 directives for the said period.
Barring a few, all the directives are almost similar to those issued earlier for the current restrictions.
All the factories and industrial units will remain closed during the period, the circular said.
However, factories have been allowed to operate since the government first imposed the Covid restrictions last year, maintaining the heath safety rules.
According to the directives, non-motorised vehicles, including rickshaws, will not be allowed on roads during the two-week lockdown.
"Operation of all kinds of vehicles, including public transport [river, rail and road], as well as domestic flights, will remain suspended," it read.
Kitchen markets will stay open from 9:00am to 3:00pm every day.
Now, those remain open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) in a circular said launches and other water vessels will be allowed to operate at half capacity from July 14 to 23 given that they follow the health safety guidelines.
Also, Bangladesh Railway announced operating 38 inter-city and 19 commuter and mail trains during the period.
Tickets for inter-city trains will be available online while those for commuter and mail trains will be issued at counters, it said in a circular yesterday.
Two private airlines -- US-Bangla Airlines and Novoair -- said they will resume flights on all domestic routes on July 15 in compliance with the health safety rules.
In the capital, cattle traders have started bringing sacrificial animals to the makeshift markets. This year, the two Dhaka city corporations have permitted setting up of 18 such markets.
Talking to The Daily Star earlier, Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said, "Our unscientific approach of relaxing the lockdown will aggravate the crisis. If the government really wants to curb infections, it must continue the lockdown."
"We needed to put under complete lockdown the border areas where cases of delta variant were detected. But we didn't do that... Now it has spread all over the country.
"More than one lakh people got infected even during this lockdown. Following its relaxation, the number of Covid cases may double or treble.
"The infected people moved around and spread the virus. Similar things will happen during the home rush and at cattle markets," Be-Nazir cautioned.
At a virtual conference yesterday, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain called upon people to stay alert and avoid crowds during the Eid to protect themselves against the virus.
"Refusal to wear face masks [in public places] is one kind of offence. It increases the risk of infection," he said, adding that it is everyone's responsibility to take preventive measures against Covid.