The country saw a staggering 5,727 daily Covid-19 positive cases on Wednesday, with a positivity rate of 20.27 percent. The day also recorded 85 Covid-related deaths. Though these are alarming figures, we are not wholly shocked at the severity of the current situation.
While we commend the government's move to enforce lockdown in seven districts around Dhaka till June 30 (restricting vehicular and public movement except during emergencies) and to cut off Dhaka from the rest of the country, we cannot help but wonder why such restrictions are not being implemented evenly nationwide. Why, for instance, should Bangladesh Railway suspend "all passenger trains from Dhaka to other parts of the country" but allow passenger trains between all other districts to run as usual? We understand that Dhaka has yet not been as badly affected by the recent surge as other divisions and so measures must be taken so that it does not get worse. But shouldn't the population outside the capital also be receiving the same type of attention from the authorities (e.g. stricter restrictions on movement)? Despite the movement restrictions in the seven districts, many commuters were seen to be avoiding highway check-posts and using alternative routes and transportation (rickshaws, auto-rickshaws and rented motorbikes) to reach their destinations.
A recent study by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) found that 72 percent of slum-dwellers in Dhaka and Chattogram cities had antibodies in their blood serum which indicated exposure to Covid-19. The study also revealed that lower antibodies were found in individuals who followed preventive health guidelines such as washing hands frequently and not touching the face/nose.
At the necessary risk of sounding like a broken record, we must urge the authorities to crack down on the Covid-19 situation on a national level. Restrictions on movement should be implemented (and properly enforced) across the country, and not just in a way that protects the centralised capital from the virus. The health system, too, must be strengthened in all divisions equally so that treatment against the virus is equally effective countrywide. It goes without saying that we are too far past the "safe" 5 percent positivity rate to justify being so haphazard about imposing preventive restrictions and health guidelines. But we also believe it is never too late for the government to toughen its attitude towards this third wave of Covid-19, so that we need not witness a fourth one.