Published:  05:53 AM, 20 July 2021

Cattle markets pose Covid 19 contagion risk

It is quite disappointing that cattle markets around the capital—which are not set to open before July 17—are already seeing throngs of sellers and potential buyers, most of them not wearing masks, let alone practicing social distancing. Visiting reporters also noted the absence of hand-washing facilities, hand sanitizers, and thermal scanners to check visitors' body temperature prior to entry.

If this is to be the scenario in all 20 cattle markets (between the two city corporations) until Eid—and the scenario may well be the same in other cattle markets across the country—we must prepare ourselves for an even grimmer Covid-19 situation after the holidays. Already, the daily death rate is in triple digits, while the number of positive cases crossed 12,000 between Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, sales seem to be going on full swing in these markets, with one trader at the Gabtali market (quoted in our report) having already sold three cows. This market was observed to be at the worst in terms of crowding, with buyers and visitors from outside Dhaka swarming it. Regarding the delay in setting up necessary health facilities, a leaseholder at this market—most likely unfamiliar with the rules of supply-and-demand and citizens' general tendency to not follow health guidelines unless strictly enforced—said they had not expected "people in droves would start to come to the market, for which we could not ensure those".

On the other hand, the DNCC mayor and the DSCC chief estate officer said that immediate action (including closing down the market) would be taken if health guidelines are violated, and that the 10 cattle markets under DNCC will each have a monitoring team. One can only guess that these "immediate actions" will be applicable after the official opening date of the cattle markets, since violations are still taking place freely as of now.

We understand the government's desire to appease religious sentiments as well as ensure the livelihood of cattle traders, but if such essential health guidelines are ignored when the markets become even more crowded in the coming days (thanks to the easing of lockdown till July 23), we will have to pay a steep price. Since there seems to be no stopping the buyers, visitors or traders, the least our two city corporations can do is immediately install hand-washing facilities and begin enforcing health guidelines.

As mentioned before, buyers and visitors do not just belong to the capital, but those from outside are also coming to these markets to purchase and resell cattle in their own districts. Given our current sky-high rates of daily Covid-19 deaths and infections, our already exhausted health system and still-uncertain vaccine supply, we simply cannot afford such mishandling. It's high time the authorities took stern actions to prevent further spread of the virus.

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