Assistance must be provided to the poor during strict restrictions

The necessity of strict restrictions or lockdowns can’t be denied considering the alarming spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Previously, the government also imposed restrictions several times but relaxed it under the pressure from various quarters and therefore the aim of imposing restrictions remains unfulfilled. Covid-19 cases and deaths even skyrocketed amid restrictions. Given the circumstances, the government went rigid on Covid-19 restrictions, beginning from 23 July. And people from all strata have backed it.

Covid restrictions brought misery to many people returning from home, especially those who arrived in Dhaka by bus, train and launch in the early hours of 23 July. Buses were denied entry to Dhaka. People walked a long way to arrive at their destinations. Despite all odds, they accepted this suffering for the greater interest of the country.

Experts and the government’s policymakers said there is no alternative to strict restrictions to decrease the rate of Covid-19 cases and deaths. India has reduced the rate of Covid transmission rapidly through restrictions and the vaccination drive. Why can’t we do so? The concern over vaccines will hopefully soon be over. A significant amount of vaccines has arrived from China, Japan and the US, and process is on to bring more although this is still not enough. The government must act now with a view to vaccinating 80 per cent of people in next 18 to 24 months.

Programmes taken by the government to tackle coronavirus since the beginning to coordinate between the life and the livelihood were not wrong in perspective of the infrastructure of Bangladesh. The problem is many people are not following the mandatory health rules to contain the coronavirus infection. In this case, there is a lack of the government’s surveillance as much as a lack of awareness among people. Long-lasting restrictions can’t be in force in a country with one third of its population living under the poverty line.

The government must follow some prerequisites to implement the on-going restrictions for 14 days successfully. Firstly, deliver food or cash to the door of the poor people whose livelihood has stopped because of restrictions. Secondly, ensure health services so that restrictions don’t disrupt treatment to anyone. The state of the hospitals outside Dhaka is deplorable.

The government has recognised the new poor, albeit late, and has announced certain stimulus packages for them too. The question is whether this would be distributed properly and timely. Previously, we also said it would not be right to depend on local administration only regarding these matters. Let the local public representatives be involved alongside the civil society. Keep in mind, if people don’t have food at home, they won’t stay at home.

We think not only involvement of law enforcement agencies but also people from different strata including students and youths are necessary to ensure the health rules are maintained.