General holiday for red zones in Bangladesh announced

Ershad Kamol and Rashad Ahamad | Updated at 07:50pm on June 17, 2020

The government on Monday extended the limited-scale operations of all offices and public transports on conditions till June 30 across the country and announced general holidays for the highly COVID-19-affected red zones to be placed under lockdown without much preparations.

Mayors in the city corporation areas and deputy commissioners in the remaining parts of the country would execute fresh restrictions in the red zones following the director general of health services’ guidelines, said a circular issued by the Cabinet Division on Monday.

Outside the red zones, the circular said, all the government, semi-government, autonomous and non-government offices would remain open in their respective arrangements on a limited scale while no one would be allowed to go out at night from 8:00pm to 6:00am without an emergency during the extended restriction period effective from today.

The latest instruction came after the 15-day tenure of the reopening offices, markets, transportations and others expired. 

The government earlier announced general holidays across the country from March 26 for containing COVID19 outbreak.

In the past 15-days, the number of COVID-19 infections spiralled out of control and till Monday the COVID-19 cases in the country reached to 90,619 while the death toll rose to 1,209.

The health experts said that imposing general holidays in red zones and allowing all activities all across the country would not be effective in containing the COVID-19 outbreak at its community transmission stage.

‘We saw the contamination continued even in the areas that were put into lockdown on an experimental basis as it was not executed well,’ said Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad president Iqbal Arsalan.

‘People can never be confined to home without giving assurance of jobs of the private service holders and providing home delivery of food and medical services to the people,’ he added. 

The mayors of Dhaka two city corporations, however, said that they were not prepared for executing the general holidays in the red zones as DGHS did not send them detailed maps.

Dhaka North City Corporation mayor Atiqul Islam said that the DGHS, following the National Technical Advisory Committee for fighting COVID-19 meeting on Saturday, mentioned names of 45 areas in the capital, 11 in Chattogram, 4 in Narayanganj and 5 in Gazipur as red zones without specifying the areas to be placed under lockdown. 

‘After getting the maps, we will take at least two days for making lists of the people for providing them required assistance and aid, for installing health service facilities and introducing testing labs required for imposing lockdown maintaining the standard operating procedure,’ Atiq said.

Dhaka south city mayor Fazle Noor Taposh would hold a meeting with the corporation officials this noon to discuss the cabinet division circular to set its strategy.   

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control director Meerjady Sabrina Flora, however, said that the intensity-wise red zones, yellow zones and green zones had not been finalised till Monday evening.

‘We are working on it,’ she said, adding that specific guidelines for the areas that would be brought under the coverage of the general holidays would be announced after completion of the mapping of the zones.

The Cabinet Division’s Monday circular, however, instructed the public administration ministry for taking steps for closing all the military offices, government, semi-government, autonomous and private offices closed to the red zones from today till June 30.

Conditions of the general holiday would be applied for the people living in the red zone areas, reads the circular and it added that restrictions on public movements would strictly been executed in the zones by the local government bodies, district administrations, health division and law enforcing agencies.

It asked the authorities to include local lawmakers in the general holiday execution programmes.

Dividing the country into red zones, yellow zones and green zones, the circular also directed the relevant ministries and divisions for taking steps for operating health services, economic activities, food supply, vehicles movements, banking, prayers and other facilities following the standard operating procedures as stated in the DGHS’s Bangladesh Risk Zone-based COVID-19 Containment Implementation Strategy. 

Outside the red zones, said the circular, ‘public transports, passenger water vessels and trains will operate carrying fixed number of passengers in keeping with the health guideline. All will have to wear masks and follow instructions of the health division.’

It, however, said that the educational institutions would remain closed.  The education ministry, issuing a separate circular on Monday, said all the educational institutions in the country would remain closed till August 6.

The civil aviation authority would decide about the operations of flights, the Cabinet Division circular added.

It said that the ban on meetings, mass gatherings and functions would remain in force and added that all concerned will have to strictly maintain the 13-point health guideline issued by the health services division.

As before, emergency services, including health, sanitation, electricity, water, gas and other fuels, fire service, mass media, telephone and internet, postal service and the land, river and sea ports would remain outside the purview of the restrictions, said the circular. 

Besides, all trucks, lorries, cargo vessels engaged in goods transport, workers engaged in dealing with agricultural produces, fertilisers, pesticides, food, industrial products, goods of state’s projects, kitchen markets, food, pharmacies, hospitals and emergency services would also remain in operation.

Doctors and medical staff, vehicles and personnel engaged in the pharmaceutical industries as well as medical equipment-carrying vehicles and people working in the print and electronic media would remain out of the purview of the restriction, it said.

The Bangladesh Bank would provide necessary directions about keeping the banks open full time, it added.