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Mess over containment zones a major setback to contain COVID-19

Published on: 5:42 pm - Thursday | June 25, 2020

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In the wake of rising COVID-19 deaths and infections across the country, the government formulated a policy to divide areas in four districts, including Dhaka some three weeks ago. The policy recommended dividing the areas of the four districts into three zones–red, yellow and green. It also suggests that no one would be allowed to enter or exit the red zone; there would be restrictions on people and traffic movement in the yellow zone; the green zone will have no such restrictions.

The aim of this strategy was to quell the spread of the deadly virus by isolating those areas with high rate of infections. From the very beginning when the zoning process was decided there was widespread criticism whether it is an effective policy to contain the spread of the virus. The ad hoc policy was formulated when the countrywide shutdown was lifted and death toll and infection rate was mounting fast.

However, implementation of this policy in Dhaka-the worse suffering district-has become riddled with scepticism. The reason behind of this uncertainty is the authorities’ inability to finalise a complete zone-based containment strategy.  Indecisions and a lack of coordination among the government agencies–dealing with the corona crisis–are the main setbacks to implementing the policy. Moreover, the city dwellers have been markedly uncooperative to follow the health precautionary guidelines.

Under these circumstances, different government authorities have been issuing dissimilar orders and instructions over the enforcement of lockdown for a few days. Because of this chaotic situation, people have become panicked and suspicious about government’s effort to fight COVID-19.

In addition, the declaration of general holiday in 27 red zones in 10 districts and later the announcement of holiday for 11 red zones in five other districts have created further confusion among common people, as the zones have not been demarcated yet. It is worth mentioning that all the notifications, declared by the Ministry of Public Administration, were issued without the consent of the Ministry of Health.

We believe spreading of the virus cannot be stopped just by dividing areas into different zones and blocking the entrances. The authorities must act fast to identify all the infected people and ensure that they remain in isolation. Introducing more corona testing facilities is a crying need at this serious moment. And ensuring people maintaining health guidelines is equally important than declaring general holiday. There is a need for a rigorous, comprehensive and coordinated approach in this regard. Otherwise, only imposing any lockdown will not work.

Considering the recommendations of the recent visit of Chinese experts in the country, it is the strict and scientific method of lockdown which is needed. Additionally, the government and the people must jointly work to address the wider lack of awareness issue.

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