The Financial Express

Experts fear spike in corona infections after Eid-ul Azha

| Updated: July 10, 2020 17:30:16

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Health experts have expressed apprehension that the Covid-19 infection rate may take an upward trend sharply after the upcoming Eid-ul Azha as tens of millions of people get directly engaged in the sacrificing over 10 million animals in the country, UNB reports.

In order to check the transmission of the coronavirus, they suggested the government can promote a system where the animals are sold, bought and slaughtered and the meat is distributed under a single system in a particular area like union, village or ward for reducing engagement of the people.  

Alongside the promotion of online cattle markets, the experts stressed the need for following the health guidelines while buying and selling animals in the traditional markets, slaughtering them and distribution of their meat.

“We may see a sharp rise in the Covid-19 infection rate after 15 days of the Eid-ul Azha unlike the Eid-ul Fitr as there are huge activities surrounding the sacrifice of animals,” said Prof Nazrul Islam, former Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

Noting that the infection rate remains at 21-22 per cent (of the Covid samples tested) in the country, he said the infection rate didn’t see any big jump after Eid-ul Fitr, but Eid-ul Azha is a different one.

Prof Nazrul, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee formed to fight Covid-19, said they’ve recently advised the government not to install any cattle markets inside the city limits of Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chattogram.

The committee told the government that it needs to maintain the health guidelines in the cattle markets across the country.

Talking to the news agency, Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), and Muzaherul Huq, former regional advisor (South East Asia) of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said that if the traditional process of animal sacrifice continues this time as well, it will not be possible to maintain social distancing, increasing the risk of Covid-19 infections spiking largely across the country.

More than 10 million animals are normally sacrificed in the country and over 50 million people get directly engaged in the process of buying, selling and slaughtering of the animals, and distribution and collection of the meat of sacrificial animals, they said.

The two experts said the government can consider arrangement of the sacrificial animals of the whole country under a central management system. In that case, the model adopted by Saudi Arabia can be followed as hajj pilgrims deposit money for sacrificing animals there, but they have no direct engagement in the process of buying and slaughtering the animals, nor in the distribution of the meat there.

“There’ll be high risk of transmission of coronavirus during the Eid-ul Azha as some 12 million animals may get sacrificed in the country and some 60 million people get directly engaged in the process,” said Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed.

Huge number of people will be engaged in slaughtering the animals, processing, distribution and collection of the sacrificial meat, he said adding that though there will be overlapping of the people in these activities, the number involved may be over 60 million.

“There are many public activities alongside mass exodus during this Eid. But we can bring the sacrificial animals under a national management system. We see those who sacrifice animals in Saudi Arabia are not directly involved there. We can consider whether we can apply it in our country. Or at least we can arrange a single management system for each specific area to complete the activities related to sacrificial animals,” said Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed.

“If we can do so, the cow or goat farmers will not be losers and social distancing can largely be maintained,” said the former director of DGHS.

Echoing Prof Be-Nazjir, Muzaherul Huq said the government can consider the introduction of a central management system to complete all the activities -- from buying of sacrificial animals to distribution of the meat -- like Saudi Arabia and some developed countries.

He said that if the central management can’t be introduced, the government can arrange a single management system for each area like union, village or ward under the authorities of the local government bodies.

“Alongside promoting the online markets, the animal markets (haats) can also be decentralised outside the cities,” said Muzaherul Huq, also founding chairman of Public Health Foundation Bangladesh.

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