Covid-19 can be eliminated only in 21 days. The government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared general holidays and several stimulus packages for people to keep them inside home. But people did not follow that guideline properly. The law enforcers were not also so rigid due to humanitarian consideration and our people took full advantage of that. Now, we are facing the sheer consequences of our ignorant attitude.
For stabilizing the economy, the government had to open the offices, factories and markets from May 31. Since then every day the number of infected and dead is going up. Still we might not have experienced the worst as the Chinese expert team suggested that, the peak is yet to come here. Many specialists and experts from all around the world has claimed that, the actual number of infected and death from Covid-19 is much higher than the declared figure. If we are yet to reach the peak, then the situation is really alarming. Hence, the government must take immediate strict measures but we are observing lack of coordination in that aspect.
We are hearing a lot about the balance between lives and livelihoods. But in reality, if we cannot control coronavirus soon, we will not be able to ensure livelihoods for long. PM Hasina declared several stimulus packages to save jobs, to safeguard industries and businesses, to ensure food security etc. But most of these packages were for a six-month span which is to end on September. Many took the benefits of those programs and many are yet to receive but almost nothing will be available after September.
Dhaka and other divisional cities along with some industrially important cities like; Narayanganj, Gazipur, Savar are facing the most dangerous situation. Among them, capital Dhaka is the worst hit as our economic activities are totally Dhaka based. Hence, it is important to have concrete plans about these cities, especially Dhaka. We need to impose complete curfew like lockdown for 21 days by deploying special law enforcing taskforce including the army in these cities. We should not forget that, most of our people are not well-literate and they cannot take soft message and portray callous attitude.
No one should get out of their house without grave reason, strong punishment should be given for violating the rules and none should be allowed to enter or leave the city at any cost. If we can impose and conduct a complete lockdown in these cities now, then we might be able to eliminate Covid-19 from these cities by the mid of July. Here, economy should not be a concern now.
If we can accomplish the elimination of Covid-19 within one month, we will be easily able to stabilize the economy. But unfortunately, we are observing a very confusing game of different zones – red, yellow and green, lack of coordination among different authorities, conflict in communication and very flexible measures. All these will drive Bangladesh towards the worst of sufferings.
During Eid-ul-Fitr, the government declared that people have to celebrate from their current place and cannot move in or out of their locations. The mass transports were also under lockdown. But they did not restrict other vehicles like; private cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks, boats etc. Millions of people traveled from one district to another. The people from the capital spread Covid-19 in different districts and returned to the capital unprotected and unchecked. It was a real joke as no strictness was portrayed.
Now, Eid-ul-Azha is approaching. Millions of people will move in Dhaka during this festival – some with cattle, some as seasonal slaughterers and meat-collectors. This will worsen the situation a lot. This year, people are financially constraint and from the religious point of view, qurbani (sacrifice of an animal) is only ‘Wazib’ upon those on whom ‘Zakat’ is a must. Hence, we should not perform qurbani for social status now. The government has given permission for 24 temporary cattle market in the capital this year and no way social distancing can be maintained if people move into these markets like every year. Hence, alternative solutions should be traced out.
We should utilize digital platforms this year for purchasing cattle as many online cattle markets deliver cattle and conduct the qurbani on behalf of the owners and we should opt for those sites. Moreover, the temporary cattle markets should be established at the suburbs surrounding Dhaka in large empty areas so that social distancing can be maintained. Additionally, we should perform combined qurbani more this year.
For qurbani, we can select our ancestral homes this year which are mostly located in the villages. That way, villagers need not come to Dhaka for collecting meat or slaughtering works and poor people can have qurbani-meat at the rural areas. For the city citizens, we can always purchase meats from the shops and should try to avoid Covid-19 risks during this year’s qurbani. The Islamic Foundation should run a countrywide campaign engaging the Imams of mosques to encourage people to conduct qurbani at their villages.
There should be also properly allocated slaughtering places in the capital so that, environmental pollution can be controlled. The government should run a huge nationwide campaign for safety measures during this Eid-ul-Azha and should discourage people to sacrifice animals singly. We can also adopt the practice in Saudi Arabia during Hajj. The government can create a platform to collect money from those who want to perform qurbani and can conduct the sacrifice centrally and can distribute the meat among the poor. Though we might have a risk of little corruption at the beginning, but the practice should start.
The government must reconsider their decisions about the temporary cattle markets inside the capital as well as should plan and impose strict measures during Eid-ul-Azha at earliest.
If we make the same mistakes of Eid-ul-Fitr during Eid-ul-Azha grave consequences is unavoidable. While the European and other markets are reopening after overcoming the pandemic, we are alarmingly still to reach the peak. We have already seen actions as South Korea stopped issuing visa for Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals recently due to coronavirus. Many such embargoes will be imposed from many other countries in the upcoming months. Our overseas workers will also face difficulties. And overall, it will be very difficult for Bangladeshi economy to regain pace.
Another important thing: pandemic does not rely on rumors. There were rumors like; rise of ‘Suraiya’ star will take away Covid-19 and claim by an Indian scientist that solar eclipse on June 21 will be the end of coronavirus. People had eaten many things as cure of coronavirus based on rumors. We should not rely on those and must follow the rules suggested by the government and international health institutes as only proper awareness can save us.
The most dangerous factor in controlling Covid-19 pandemic is the lack of coordination among different authorities relevant. It is not a time to think about anything else but eliminating coronavirus from Bangladesh within a month, which is possible. We hope Bangladesh Government under the guidance of PM Sheikh Hasina will overcome all the odds by declaring a strict action plan without any dubious conscience. After all, a stitch in time saves nine.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)