THE number of COVID-19 patients since May 17, when the daily detection has crossed a thousand and has never fallen below the mark, has now, as official records say, stood at 19,326, almost double the number of 20,995 till then since the first detection on March 8. The number of death caused by the disease in the 12 days since May 17 has stood at 245, a little less than 314 that has been on record till then since the first case of March 18. The government, meanwhile, ordered a general holiday, beginning on March 26 and stretched until May 30, with a stay-at-home order and adherence to the social distancing protocol. The government closed educational institutions, offices and industries, imposed restrictions on public transports of all modes, ordered a ban on travel from one district to another, put in place a ban on night-time venturing out and limited opening times for kitchen markets and grocer’s. Although none of the measures could be strictly enforced or adhered to, the overall situation almost halted the economy. The government started relaxing some of the restrictions beginning with May and is now set to further ease the restrictions beginning on May 31.
The government has now allowed almost all offices and industries to reopen on a limited scale consequent on adherence to health safety protocols for two weeks until June 15. It has also allowed domestic flights to operate and public transports to run with an adherence to protocols the details of which are pending decisions of relevant authorities. Educational institutions will, however, continue for now to remain closed till the middle of June and the ban on travel from one to another district and the night-time venturing out, though for a shorter duration, will still be in force. Much of the restrictions that could not be strictly enforced with especially the poor and many low- and fixed-income people having to go without food and money, having largely lost their job and having spent their savings on their daily needs has been further eased. With the government apparently having no option but to reopen almost everything with proper caution, a situation like this entails further risk of COVID-19 transmission especially in view of people’s lack of awareness and an eased enforcement of whatever restrictions that remain. For a better management of the situation with fears for a further spread of the novel coronavirus infection, the government should ensure that the health protocols, decided separately for different sectors, are strictly adhered to. The government should also run a large-scale awareness campaign on its own and on mass media so that people realise that they would need to remain cautious and go by the health advisories to contain the risks.
But only a strict adherence to health safety guidelines, which are seen to have so far been more honoured in the breach, and public awareness, which at times appears non-existent, may not entirely head off the risks. While the government must step up its efforts in all this, it must also significantly increase and widen COVID-19 testing facilities so as to stop any fresh case from infecting others and increase the institutional capacity of treatment of COVID-19 and other ailments.
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