On 3 May, the cabinet division came up with a decision to extend the Covid-19 restrictions till 16 May. After a meeting, the cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam briefed journalists that the protocol of the ongoing restrictions will remain almost same in the extended period.
Intra-city and intra-district bus services will be allowed from 6 May, but all the inter-district public transport including buses, trains and launches will remain halted. If needed, law enforcement agencies will close shopping hubs in case health guidelines are violated there.
Experts recommended hard measures like lockdown to contain the surge of the coronavirus second wave. But the government has been imposing ‘strict restrictions’ since 5 April considering the real need of running the national economy and people’s income-generating activities.
However, the strictness of the restrictions fluctuated at times. At one stage, the government allowed public transport and shops to operate. As a consequence, the coronavirus transmission severely intensified. Within a couple of weeks, the government again stopped public transport and shops. At that time, the rate of virus infection started to fall. The cases only prove that there is no alternative to strict restrictions to check the Covid-19 contagion.
Prior to the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr, the government, considering economic implications of the Eid market and the demands of shop owners, allowed reopening of the shops on condition of complying with health guidelines. However, restrictions on public transport prevailed.
A government policy-making meeting was held on 2 May. Health minister Zahid Maleque chaired the meeting also attended by public representatives and senior officers of administration.
According to a Prothom Alo report, the meeting participants unanimously stressed on continuity of the ongoing restrictions till Eid. They also expressed their concern over violation of health guidelines at public places including the shopping hubs. The policymakers urged factory owners not to grant their workers festival leave as they suspected the virus would spread more if the workers leave their job station during the Eid holiday. If granted leave, the workers will plan to visit their village homes. This will increase the risk of virus transmission from city to village and from one city to another.
In such a situation, we find the decision of the cabinet division very logical. However, decision making is not enough. The government must take necessary steps so that the decision is implemented properly. If mass movement from one district to another can be checked till 16 May, transmission of coronavirus will be brought under control, hopefully. The government must monitor whether the intra-district transport services are maintaining the health guidelines or not. Transport owners and workers must be held responsible for violation of the health guidelines.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the government has been advocating a balance between life and livelihood. For this, the government should provide the food and cash support to the working people badly affected by the lockdown.
On 2 May, the prime minister inaugurated a cash support programme targeting 3.6 million poor families. But the number of poverty-ridden jobless families is much higher. There should be a system to bring all the affected people under the safety net so that they can live on the support till 16 May. Beside the government support, let the wealthy people of the society stand by the poor.