Fresh lockdown : Experts skeptical about having any great result

Dhaka, Apr 13 :  A fresh lockdown with harsher measures is going to be enforced in the country from Wednesday in an effort to rein in Covid transmission, but experts say the lockdown is unlikely to help reap any great results for lack of preparations to implement the restrictions.They said a curfew-like situation must be created during the lockdown by engaging the members of the Army and BGB alongside the regular law enforcers to force people to maintain health safety rules and stay indoors.
The experts also opposed the government’s decision to keep mills and factories open during the lockdown as they fear it will help the virus continue to spread.
They said the government should have provided the destitute, day-labourers and slum-dwellers with a specific amount of money to manage their food and livelihood before enforcing the lockdown.
On April 5, a nationwide lockdown was enforced for a week keeping almost everything open. No positive impact of the lockdown is visible as the country witnessed the highest weekly increase in virus infections and fatalities with 47,518 new cases and 504 deaths during the period.
Under the circumstances, the government on Monday issued a set of new directives to enforce a seven-day strict lockdown from Wednesday shutting all the offices and public transports. However, factories will remain open during the lockdown.

Lockdown preparations

Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said extensive preparations are needed to implement the lockdown strictly.
“The big problem is that the government is going to enforce the lockdown again without any preparation. “When you want to keep 17 crore people indoors for seven days, it’s a matter of serious preparation. A large number of people are supposed to be engaged in such a move for its successful implementation,” he said.
The expert said makeshift shops should have been made in every locality so that people can collect their daily essentials during the month of Ramadan from there maintaining health safety rules.
He also said the low-income people should have been given incentives to encourage them to follow the rules of hygiene and stay at home.
“A slum dweller can’t live on unless he or she earns every day. We should have made the list of needy people and provide them with a certain amount of money so that they needn’t go outside for livelihood during the lockdown,” the expert observed.
Besides, Be-Nazir said, a team of volunteers should be there in every area to ensure isolation of the family members of the Covid patients and help the government implement its directives and restrictions.
“I personally think the government has no preparation and well-thought-out plans to control the coronavirus transmission. That’s why they’re taking whimsical decisions and enforcing lockdown without proper plans and preparations,” he observed.

Breaking virus transmission cycle

Dr Be-Nazir said a health emergency or a strict lockdown should be enforced for at least 14 days to slow down the virus transmission.
“The loose lockdown that remained in force in the country for the last seven days seems to be futile to control the virus transmission. “Rather, we’re heading towards a dangerous situation. The South African variant which is now prominent in the country is very deadly as it can rapidly damage the lungs of the infected people. That’s why the fatality rate is growing alarmingly,” he opined.
Without controlling public movement, the expert said, the existing upward cycle of the virus transmission cannot be broken. “If we can keep our people at home for at least 14 days, the virus transmission will surely be eased.”
Besides, he said, it is necessary to ensure the isolation of the family menders of infected people.

People’s recklessness a big worry

Eminent virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee, said, “The government first enforced a lockdown keeping almost everything open, and it’s now going to enforce another weeklong lockdown keeping the mills and factories functional. I’ve a doubt about the success of such a halfhearted lockdown,” he observed.
The expert said the government is using the word lockdown but it is not enforcing it in a true sense. “Lockdown means everything will be closed, except some emergency services, and no one will be allowed to go outside without any emergency any need.”
He said everything was more or less usual during the first week of lockdown. “It has sent out a negative message to people and they’ve become more reckless to show apathy to the government’s instructions and abide by the lockdown,” he said.

Deploying Army, BGB

Prof Nazrul said the government should focus on forcing people to mandatorily wear masks, maintain social distancing and avoid any gathering to contain the virus surge. “If necessary, the government must deploy the members of the Army to enforce the lockdown.”
Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, a member of the public health expert team formed by the government for eight divisions, said people have lost their confidence in lockdown because of the way it has been enforced from April 5. “It’s still possible to control the unnecessary movement of people if Army members start patrolling different areas and punish those flouting the government’s directives.”
“I personally think the Army’s engagement is necessary to strictly enforce the lockdown. We had the Army’s cooperation last year in controlling the virus outbreak. So, we can engage them this time in enforcing the lockdown,” he observed. Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, also thinks a curfew-like situation should be created by deploying Army and BGB members so that people do not come out of their homes without any valid reason.

Keeping factories open a wrong move
Lenin said the success of the government’s restrictions depends on their implementation.
“The government issued fresh directives on Mandy to place the country under lockdown. But we’re not sure whether they can properly implement those. There’s also a question as to why the government allows the mills and factories to remain open during the lockdown.”
A good number of people will go to factories and return home to join their family members, giving the virus a scope to spread. “So, I think it’s a wrong decision. A complete lockdown should be enforced for at least two-three weeks shutting down everything to get success in containing the virus.”

Engaging community

Prof Nazrul said the government should have engaged the public representatives like mayors, councillors, chairman and members for making the list of needy people and stand beside them with the help of the government and private and social organisations during the lockdown period.
He said the government should have formed committees at all wards involving either public representatives or locals to help people during their need and check the unnecessary movement of people and ensure mask use, reports UNB.