Bangladesh on Wednesday lifted its nationwide coronavirus lockdown to prepare for the second-biggest religious festival of Eid al-Adha despite a surge in Covid-19 cases. The festival will be celebrated from July 20 to 22 this year after which the country will go back into a strict lockdown.
The restrictions in the Muslim-majority country with a population of 169 million people were eased from 6 am on July 14 to enable pre-Eid business and trade, allow homebound journeys and purchase of sacrificial cattle.
The decision to withdraw the restrictions for an interim period was formally announced through a notification by the Cabinet Division on Tuesday. The notification justifying the need for a temporary unlock read, “(the decision has been taken) considering the socio-economic condition and the need to maintain normal economic activity.”
However, strict orders have been given to follow the appropriate health protocols and Covid behavior like wearing masks.
During the temporary unlock public transports will ply on a limited scale, shops, stores and malls will be allowed to open on the condition of maintaining health guidelines and cattle markets will be operational across the country.
Bangladesh had imposed its strictest-ever lockdown on July 01 as new Covid-19 cases and deaths witnessed a surge. The government has announced a similar lockdown post the breather with factories, industries, shops and private offices shutting once again.
“If needed army should be deployed” says virologist
A virologist on the national Covid advisory panel Prof Dr Nazrul Islam expressed his concerns over the exodus of people from Dhaka to travel back home. “But if public transports are operational, the crowd will be less as opposed to what we have seen during previous lockdowns ahead of the festivals when hundreds of thousands leave the city either way,” he remarked.
“The risk of contagion can be minimized if transport operators follow health protocol. Moreover, the risk of infection through the cattle markets can be avoided, if health rules are followed. If needed, the army should be deployed in the cattle markets,” he added.
Mohammad Shahidullah, who heads an advisory health committee to the government on handling the Covid crisis, informed that his group of experts opposed the easing of the lockdown.
“The committee opines that this strict lockdown should be continued till there is a declining trend in infections,” Shahidullah told AFP.
“Amid the lockdown, there is an increasing trend of infections and fatalities. The infection level is still very high,” he added.
There are also fears that the markets could become the new super-spreaders.
Surge in infections
Bangladesh on Tuesday recorded over 12000 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total number of cases to just over one million.
While the official death toll has risen above 16,600, experts say the real figures could be much higher amid fears of underreporting.