Conspicuous by the absence of any large congregations for prayer in the open fields, the Muslim community of Bangladesh this time, as elsewhere in the world, celebrated their biggest religious festival, the Eid-ul-Fitr, under quite unfamiliar conditions. Obviously, it was because of the pandemic that there were neither the usual sights of worshippers embracing each other after prayer, nor the customary visits to friends' or relatives' houses to enjoy sweets and other delicious foods prepared in every Muslim's house during the Eid.
Although there was no pre-Eid rush of holidaymakers to reunite with their relatives outside Dhaka in packed public transports, yet seeing that many, despite the lockdown, had already left the capital city, by means fair or foul, and formed large gatherings at the ferry and launch terminals, the government relaxed the travel restrictions for those who have or could afford private vehicles to travel outside Dhaka. Since the Eid is over, there has been another rush, now towards Dhaka, by the same holidayers. And what is being feared during these mad outbound and inbound surge of Eid travellers is that the most important condition of maintaining social distancing among the people to avoid contracting the covid-19 might be compromised with careless abandon by the holidaymakers. If only due to the crowded ferries, launches or other improvised local transports they might be using during these travels.
So, it should be a matter of concern for all, especially for those responsible for enforcing control measures against the pandemic. The most important aspects of control in this particular case should have been meticulously conducting the tasks of tracking and tracing the holidaymakers at every stage of their movement during their travels to and away from their intended stations, during the time they stayed at their out-of-Dhaka stations and after their return back to Dhaka. Also, the agencies should conduct necessary tests on a recurrent basis. Hopefully, the authorities concerned are alert to these issues. While expressing such concerns, one would also like to point out that in this fight against the pandemic every citizen of the country has a responsibility to share. Since it is a matter of life and death for every individual, the onus lies on every individual to take adequate precautionary measures to protect her/himself against the virus. And, there is little room for leaving the matter of fighting the pandemic to the government alone.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the attitude of some of the Eid holidayers seemed anything but serious, rather casual, when they were approached by news reporters and asked if they saw any risk of contracting or being the cause of any transmission of the pandemic. This could have been demonstrated either during their adventurous journeys to meet their relatives outside Dhaka or during their sojourn in their places of visit, let alone when they are settling back in the capital city.
So, the need for raising public awareness about the pandemic is still paramount, especially when the government, for the sake of both life and livelihood, has announced reopening of official and business activities from May 31 subject to abidance by the anti-pandemic health protocols. Then beyond June 15 we are going to see the educational institutions open. Thus, until the fight against pandemic reaches a point of success, there should be zero-tolerance against any laxity about maintaining physical distance, hand sanitizing and other health protocols. Interspersed with these, the practices of zoning, clustering, contact tracing and containing will have to be combined in a vigorous strategic approach to dealing with the stupendous challenge.