In the latest move to contain the spread of COVID-19, the government has stopped the operation of all ferries, except for nightly movement of vehicles carrying essentials. Indeed, a timely and important in the fight against the deadly virus.
The exodus from Dhaka to other districts using ferries was scary with holidaymakers cramming with no social distancing possible and many were seen without face masks.In capital Dhaka, some buses were operated far away from complying with health rules and commuters trying to force their way in through the narrow doors elbowing out each other.
Then the malls and markets are overflowing with shoppers many of whome are violating health rules.The scenes are scary to say the least. Then the other scary part is possibly some are carrying a special Eid gift for their loved ones in town and villages --- the COVID-19 bug. So far so good, but if there is an outbreak in the remote areas then what can happen is something I do not want to even imagine! The government has taken a number of measures but it seems most are least bothered and going about as if the virus has decided not to spread further in Bangladesh.
In the countryside, at least from where I come from, there is no indication that COVID-19 is scary for those of us in Dhaka or other major cities. No one is seen wearing face mask and no hand wash. The answer is very interesting. "Corona is scared of us and thus no case here so far. We work under the scorching sun or rain which makes us stronger that the corona virus." I pray so. Men, women and children walk to their respective destinations rain or shine and thus they are immune to the bug. I pray so.
On the hindsight, it will be wise for the concerned authorities to prepare permanent Intensive Care Units with adequate oxygen and medicines for any eventuality. This will help avert any unforeseen situation. Helipads must be marked so that seriously ill patients can be flown to properly equipped hospitals by using helicopters belonging to the armed forces or law enforcers.
One thought that does not leave me is how can we celebrate Eid like normal times. With so many people dying daily and many others sick with coronavirus how can we think of shopping and travelling to spend the festival time with the loved ones. Can't we be more human and sacrifice one or two such festivals?
For me it is inhuman. If we do not feel and share the agony of our friends and neighbours it sounds very selfish. Some reasoned that festival is a festival and there will be many incidents like floods to kill or put people in misery and thus no point feeling sad for months together. I am sorry I cannot agree with such reasoning at all. Let us try to be humane first as we are human beings not animals. That reminds me of the song by late Bhupen Hazarika: If you are not an animal, but animals cannot be humans."
Many buses have started to operate on inter-district routes, even to Cox's Bazar tourist town, defying a government health ban. The law enforcers are either feeling sorry to turn them back or we can only guess why they are looking the other way.
Like a short three-day festival holiday, one other matter could have been made compulsory. Donate all your funds for the festival to the treatment and research of coronavirus. The current festival mood tells me our people are saying NO to life and YES to shopping or travelling for Eid.
Thank God the second wave is apparently over with daily new cases and deaths declining. But we should not let our guards down as the Indian variant, triple mutant, is deadly. The health minister has confirmed that oxygen will not be a problem, yet I feel it is necessary to stock up as much as possible.The scenes on television coming from New Delhi are a horror. Let God help the people in India and save them from the deadliest variant so far.
The authorities have shut the border with India, which is an excellent move. What is now required is strict monitoring so that none can use non-formal routes to enter Bangladesh as the long border is very porous despite barbed wire fencing by India, which should also ensure a complete shutdown of the frontier.
Nadeem Qadir is the Editor-in-Charge, the Asian Age & Dag Hammarskjold Fellow
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