THE fresh restrictions for eight days on public movement and businesses that the government put into force as part of a preventive measure against the COVID-19 infection on April 14 are reported to have gone lax on the second day as people, especially the young, kept crowding lanes and by-lanes in cities and towns and privately owned cars and auto-rickshaws ran the road in a greater number in big cities. While people crowded the kitchen markets and shops kept selling kitchen items, both the city authorities of Dhaka say that they have no plans to relocate kitchen markets to open spaces although one of the directives say that kitchen markets would remain open for six hours beginning at 9:00am in open spaces under the management of the district administration or the market authorities. The law enforcers on patrol on the road are also reported to have harassed physicians, health workers and emergency service providers, who as people offering emergency services are to remain outside the purview of the restrictions. The law enforcers are reported to have blocked road stretches in several places of the capital city to stop public movement, which also unnecessarily stops people engaged in emergency services from using the stretches, causing delay and hampering services.
While all this suggests a lack of seriousness of the government in enforcing the restrictions — non-pharmaceutical interventions that could head off the spread of the infection — the local government and rural development ministry is reported to be still working on COVID-19 management protocols for local government institutions. It appears that the government has ordered the restrictions without having drawn up the required protocols beforehand. Despite having no plans to relocate kitchen markets to open spaces, the south city authorities seek to say that they would run mobile courts to enforce the restrictions. A plan like this brings up a question if the city authorities are to enforce the health guidelines in the interests of public health or legally make some money for the authorities by imposing financial penalty on errant people. While many think that the crowding of lanes and by-lanes was taking place in the absence of an effective patrolling by the law enforcers, it also seems that the law enforcers lack in understanding the restriction directives or there has been a lack of coordination among the law enforcers. The government and all its agencies should keep it in mind that the ultimate goal is to effectively enforce the restrictions to head off the spread of COVID-19 infection and to work in that direction.
It is, therefore, time that the government and its agencies effectively enforced the restrictions to achieve the intended goal. This is not for the first time the agencies are facing such a situation. The situation has almost been the same, with a varying intensity of infection though, for more than a year now and the government is no longer left with space to make any mistakes. It must work on what it has learnt in the past one year for the better.
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