Red zone declaration process in a mess

Ershad Kamol and Rashad Ahamad | Published: 00:34, Jun 17,2020 | Updated: 15:28, Jun 17,2020


A series of uncoordinated instructions passed by the government agencies for restricting COVID-19 contamination in the past three days unsettled the public mind while the authorities concerned were puzzling over how to execute the orders as there remain many unanswered questions.

Several Dhaka dwellers on Tuesday said that they were panicked and confused regarding the lockdown issue saying that they thought lockdown would start from Tuesday after the Cabinet Division circular on Monday declared general holidays with effect from the following day in the high infection COVID-19 red zones.

‘I don’t know whether the flat where I live in would be under lockdown or not. If so, I would like to know for how many days and what facilities I would get during the lockdown,’ said Akram Khan, a Basabo resident while buying a huge volume of essentials from a chain shop anticipating the lockdown.

The Cabinet Division circular came after the DGHS director general Abul Kalam Azad on Saturday sent lists of 45 areas in the capital, 11 in Chattogram, 4 in Narayanganj and 5 in Gazipur terming those as red zones to the city corporations, relevant ministries, divisions and agencies without specifying the areas to be placed under lockdown.  

The areas were recommended by the Central Technical Committee for Zoning to Mitigate COVID-19 comprising officials from the DGHS, Access to Information and Access to Information, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control.

Dhaka’s two city corporations, which have been made responsible for executing the lockdowns by the Cabinet Division, did not take any step so far.

They argued that the DGHS did not give them area-specific maps and standard operation procedure when the technical committee of the DGHS said they would take a few more days for mapping the zones as they did not have addresses  of all the COVID-infected people yet.

Dhaka North City corporation mayor Atiqul Islam and south city mayor Fazle Noor Taposh in separate briefings on Tuesday said that they would take two to three days more for enforcing the lockdown after getting area specific mappings.

Enforcement of such large-scale lockdowns in areas across 17 places under Dhaka’s North City Corporation and 28 areas under the south city, as sent to them by the DGHS on Saturday, they said, would not earn expected result for mitigating COVID-19.

They argued that the city would collapse, economic activities would be suspended, public transportation system would be blocked and people would suffer more.

‘After getting the lists of the areas and the standard operation procedure from the DGHS, we will enforce the lockdowns in the specific areas taking advises from the local lawmakers and involving the police, ward councillors, civil society actors, DGHS officials and NGOs, Atiqul said.

Taposh did not see any confusion in the Cabinet Division circular but he also demanded immediate area specification arguing that an entire area as stated before by the DGHS as red zone should not be placed under lockdown, which would create different problems.

‘The government high-ups also do not want a massive-scale lockdown considering continuation of the economic activities,’ he said.

DNCC chief health officer Brigadier General Mominur Rahman Mamun could not give answer to the New Age question regarding who would be responsible for implementing the lockdown in the Dhaka cantonment area shown as red zone by the DGHS and what would happen to the intercity bus services from Mahakhali and Gabtoli bus terminals located in the red zones. 

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 infections continue to rise as 3,862 more people got infected with the virus and 53 more died of the highly infectious disease in the last 24 hours until 8:00am Tuesday. The country’s confirmed cases now stand at 94,481 while the death toll hits 1,262.

Bangladesh Medical Association secretary general Md Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury expressed concern over non-enforcement of the lockdown for inefficiency and lack of coordination among the responsible agencies amid the worsening COVID-19 situation.

Central Technical Committee for Zoning to Mitigate COVID-19 member secretary Zahirul Kamim said that they would take a few more days for mapping the areas to be placed under lockdown as they were facing troubles getting the addresses of the COVID-19 infected people.

‘We are now collecting addresses by calling them over their mobile phones,’ he said.

Zahirul said that the committee had distributed a standard operation guideline on Monday night recommending that an area be placed under lockdown for 21 days, which would be declared by the district civil surgeons.

The guidelines allowed people to work from home in the lockdown areas in the areas but allowed agricultural and industrial activities maintaining the health guidelines outside the city areas.

It restricted any type of transport movements if an area was under lockdown but allowed movements of trucks, cargo careers and vessels at the night in the red zone areas outside the cities.

The grocery shops, medicine stores inside the restricted areas would remain open and the restaurants would be allowed to operate home delivery services in the red zones.

Zahirul said that even the government and private service holders would not be allowed to go outside the areas under lockdown. ‘No additional public order would be required from public administration ministry for the government officials. We will discuss with the government to ensure job security,’ he said.

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