Lockdown clauses under government review

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:15, Jul 19,2020


The government is now reviewing the lockdown execution clauses of declaring red zones and their implementation a month after the Directorate General of Health Services had sent the lists of 64 red zones to the city corporations of five cities.

Access to Information joint project director Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir told New Age on Saturday that they were reviewing the clauses for lockdown implementation, which began on June 13, to narrow down areas and their numbers to keep the economy going.

‘Besides calculating the infection rate, the trend of infection of an area will be evaluated to see whether it was on the rise or not,’ Humayun Kabir said.

‘Only small areas will be considered as red zones for the lockdown if at least 60 people per one lakh population were found COVID-19 positive and last 14-day record showed that the infection rate was on the rise,’ he said.

‘Factories in the lockdown areas will be allowed to operate following the DGHS-set health guidelines,’ he added.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research data and those sent by the district administrations will be considered for evaluation, he said, adding that the June 13 list sent by the DGHS to the corporations was not official.

DGHS director general Abul Kalam Azad, following the second meeting of the directorate’s central technical group on June 13, sent the lists of 45 red zones in Dhaka, 11 in Chattogram, 4 in Narayanganj and 5 in Gazipur to the city corporations for executing the lockdown, directorate officials said.

Mayors, ministers and the policymakers, however, refused to execute large-scale lockdown in the 64 areas arguing that such actions would paralyse the cities and seriously affect economic activities.

They demanded area-specific maps from the DGHS and Access to Information. ‘We have to give equal importance to life and livelihood. The lockdown should not be executed hampering the economic activities,’ local government and rural development minister Md Tajul Islam said.

After not yielding expected result from executing the lockdown at the Purba Rajabazar as a test case, Dhaka north city mayor Atiqul Islam said, ‘The lockdown must be specific to households as placing an area under the lockdown is a very difficult task to manage.’

DGHS director Jahirul Karim said that the five test cases that the directorate conducted proved that executing area-specific lockdown was very challenging and concerned authorities expressed reluctance to take such challenges.

Records of the test cases show that the number of coronavirus-infected people at Kaliganj in Gazipur, where factories were allowed to continue, increased from 18 to 47 after 21 days of lockdown while number of COVID-19 positive at another study area of Rupganj, Narayanganj dropped from 81 to eight where public movement was controlled strictly.

The number of infections till July 18 crossed 2,00,000 while the death toll hit 2,581. The national technical committee members demanded strict enforcement of lockdown in major cities like Dhaka, Chattogram, Narayanganj and Gazipur before the situation goes beyond control.

Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad president Iqbal Arsalan said that not executing the lockdown in the big cities as proposed by national technical committee to the health ministry in May was unexpected.

‘We have not yet changed our opinion in the interest of the public health. I don’t understand what the DGHS was doing and whether it was taking opinion of any health experts before taking such decisions,’ said Iqbal, also a member of the technical committee.

Another national committee member and virologist Md Nazrul Islam requested the government and the mayors to consider the number of volunteers they would require to ensure proper execution of the lockdown of every single house having coronavirus-infected patients when number of COVID-19 positive crossed two lakhs.

‘The government must immediately respond before things go beyond control, Nazrul said.

LGRD ministry additional secretary Md Zahirul Islam said that the ministry, corporations and ward councillors were ready for executing the lockdown as soon as they got the maps from the DGHS.

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