Social distancing at shelters a big challenge -The Asian Age

Extremely severe cyclonic storm 'Amphan' is posing a huge challenge for Bangladesh to maintain social distancing and hygiene at the shelter centres as the country grapples to contain the spread of coronavirus.

State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman said the government is arranging face masks and sanitisers at the shelters and noted that two million people can be evacuated, reports UNB.

But given that a large number of people will stay in a single room and use common toilet, the risk of coronavirus' spread remains.

"We've increased the number of shelter centres to 12,078 from 5,767 since cyclone Bulbul (that hit Bangladesh in November 2019) to ensure social distancing," Enamur told UNB.

Barguna Deputy Commissioner Mustain Billah said they increased the number of cyclone shelter centres by 100 and kept face mask, hand-wash and hand sanitiser there considering the pandemic situation.

"We've raised the number of cyclone shelter centres to 610, which was 509 during cyclone Bulbul," he said adding that enough number of volunteers would be at the centres to help maintain safe distancing and hygiene.

Noting that ensuring social distancing is definitely a challenge, he said they were trying their best in this regard.

Deputy Commissioner of Bagerhat Md Mamunur Rashid said they increased the number of cyclone shelter centres to 977 and included many educational institutions as makeshift shelters.

"Only 345 cyclone shelter centres out of 420 were used during Bulbul. But this time we increased the total number to 977," he said, adding that they also engaged 11,708 volunteers to ensure safe distancing and hygiene at the centres.

Noting that hand-wash has been made mandatory for everyone at the centres, he said: "We're doing as much as possible."

Around 250,000 people were being evacuated in the district, he said.

Satkhira Deputy Commissioner SM Mostafa Kamal said along with face masks and soaps, bleaching powder is there at the centres to maintain hygiene.

"Though many people already have face masks, we've provided 30,000 masks for the centres," he said.

He also said there are medical teams at the centres to examine people for COVID-19 symptoms. If anyone has such symptom, the person concerned will be kept in isolation centres, he added.

The Deputy Commissioner said they raised the number of shelter centres to 1,800 from some 1,200 used during cyclone Bulbul. The centres can accommodate 760,000 people. More than 200,000 people were evacuated during Bulbul, he said.

"We also increased toilet facilities to ensure hygiene at the centres during the pandemic situation," he said adding that they are trying to keep the members of a same family together in a marked place inside the centres.