Dhaka city is now, officially, cut off from the rest of the country. It is only connected by air. The government first imposed lockdown in seven neighbouring districts and stopped plying of inter-district buses. The next day, it barred passenger launches and trains from plying. The aim behind all the measures was to prevent people from leaving or entering Dhaka city and keep the rate of Covid infection and fatality at a low level here.
The Covid situation in the frontier districts is just dreadful. The infection and fatality have also risen in areas closer to those and are now zeroing in on Dhaka, it seems.
The question is how far that objective behind all the restrictions is being achieved. Watching what is happening at the entry and exit points of Dhaka city since all the restrictions were put in place, one has ample reasons to believe that the government's plan is not working.
People in their hundreds are entering the city and leaving it 24 hours with no resistance. While doing so, they, however, have to endure lots of sufferings. People coming from opposite directions are now required to get off from the buses either at Gabtoli and Signboard points and cross on foot a long distance to board buses and other modes of transports. In addition to sufferings, these people have to spend an extra amount on their travel. The ongoing scenes are almost identical to what had happened on the occasion of last Eidul-ul-fitr.
Keeping everything open, it is not possible to prevent people from entering or leaving Dhaka city. Hundreds of people from Dhaka have to travel to Narayanganj, Savar and Gazipur daily to attend their workplaces. Despite the lockdown, most mills and factories are open. So, they cannot skip their duties.
The responsibility of the law enforcers is to stop inter-district buses from moving in or moving out of Dhaka, not other vehicles --- private or otherwise. People are embarking on pickups, vans, taxis etc., to travel to their destinations. This entails an extra cost. For the last few days, they have been complaining about their sufferings and additional travel expenses.
The truth is that the movement of people had been far less during the so-called holiday period enforced between March and May last year.
There is no denying that people being more concerned about their livelihoods are reluctant to accept any sort of restriction. The government's attitude towards the execution of restrictive measures is also an issue. From the very beginning, the government has been demonstrating a non-serious attitude towards the execution of lockdown or any other restrictive measures. It has dithered about taking the right decisions at the right time. This has emboldened many people who are not aware of the dangers, not to comply with the health safety rules.
The situation, to be honest, is quite serious. Lockdown in some border districts has failed to contain infections and fatalities. Being soft on lockdown because of the livelihood issue might have played a part in the ongoing Covid situation.
The situation calls for making a few tough decisions. The lockdown needs to be total wherever it is imposed. It is also a time to review the state of affairs in Dhaka from the right perspective and make appropriate moves. Indian Delta variant of the virus is being blamed for rising deaths and infections. Now another potentially deadlier variant, Delta plus, reportedly has emerged. That should be yet another reason to be doubly worried.