The Financial Express

Journeys courting avoidable hazard  

Journeys courting avoidable hazard   

The 'hard lockdown' which is now in force across the country ought to have been clamped on its cities long ago. People appeared to have been aware of the extent to which these orders' strictness could go. There are flipsides. Had the authorities meant business, then with those restrictive measures in place, the Covid-19 situation in the country would not have deteriorated to the present miserable state so suddenly. It was only after the Indian Delta variant of the virus began wreaking havoc on several southwestern districts bordering the neighbouring country that the Bangladesh authorities woke up to the grim reality.

The general people this time around also looked to a relaxed shutdown, despite the repeated government warnings that the 'no movement' order would be real strict; and that they meant it. Few paid heed to the words. In consequence, how dearly these compulsively 'freedom loving' reckless people had to pay for their village-bound expeditions was seen on July 23 after the Eid-ul-Azha, and the following few days. The repeatedly announced 'hard lockdown' began on July 23. The TV footage, and newspaper photographs the following days, showed the miserable ordeals the Eid holiday-makers had been exposed to upon reaching the ferry terminal points and the launch stations. It was chiefly the elderly men and women, women with babies, and small children who suffered the most.

Those who are fully acquainted with the matter know well that these relatively infirm and weaker segments comprising the village home-bound journey makers wouldn't have shown interest in their corona-time Eid trips home. There were many cautious people who had been reluctant to leave Dhaka to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha at their ancestral homes this year. To their woes, these simple and gullible people were veritably enticed, and forced in cases, to make the trips home.

It was a large section of arrogant elements, chronically irreverent to the existing system and law, who have allegedly coerced the pliable and voiceless majority into making the hazardous journeys. The Eid trips this July had allegedly all along been shadowed by the Covid-19 viruses which had presumably contracted many of the holiday makers. But the rogues knew about the consequences. They also knew that they too were not out of the path of hazards. Befitting the elements taking pleasure from jeopardising peace and harmony in society, these people were found holding sway on the village-bound journey-makers. To attain their heinous goal, they took different guises. They could not be told from the average village-trippers. But they couldn't hide themselves till the last moment. Quite unwittingly, they showed their original facewhich was filled with irrational anger against the corona-time emergency rules. To be specific, some of them nakedly blamed the administration for imposing the lockdown. As one of them interpreted the miseries of the people going back to their different destinations in Dhaka, the authorities wilfully chose the timing of the post-Eid restrictions. One observed the administration wanted to see people suffer as the latter had not complied by the authorities' request that they celebrate this Eid in a restrained manner by dropping their plan of visiting their ancestral homes in village. To many people standing nearby, the person in question seemed like delivering a semi-political harangue.

Unfortunately, few of the people returning from villages could realise, or tried to realise, theinfections of the corona virus hounding them during their journeys; because they couldn't avoid being in the midst of frenzied melee on board the ferries. A lot of otherwise healthy people may have already contracted the dreadful virus --- either in their villages or on the ferries or other passenger vessels.

Although there was no incidence of worrisome or panicky corona outbreaks, the situation following the third week of March 2020 was not at all comforting. There have been occasional flare-ups of the pandemic in Dhaka and the adjacent cities since first Covid-19 death in the capital. In tandem, rush for admission to hospitals with corona symptoms began galloping. By that time big Indian cities like Delhi, Bombay and Kolkata were brought under movement controls. These orders eventually ended up being moderate lockdowns. Weeks later Delhi and Kolkata witnessed night curfews. Daytime movements came under police surveillance. The large city closest to Dhaka, the megacity of Kolkata, has been under a lockdown of sorts for almost a year. The Bangladesh authorities, until the latest hard lockdown, seem to have been making do with controlling people's movement and effecting social distance. Their anti-corona virus-spread drives remained limited to a chain of shutdowns. Starting with a long list of restrictions on urban activities, including kitchen market operation and grocery shopping hours, they finally fizzled out. Although public buses remained off the road, private cars and non-mechanised transport were plenty. Footpaths would be teeming with pedestrians.

In fact, Dhaka has never been completely free of the so-called shutdown orders in the last one-and-half years. The order has been termed 'so-called' because despite the closure of all educational institutions, government and private offices, businesses, recreational centres etc, the city hardly seemed being under a functionally strict shutdown. The increasing number of covid-19 cases and deaths warranted a hard lockdown in April-May this year. Unfortunately, it didn't come forth. Many blame the lack of consensus among policymakers on a hard lockdown in the recent years for the present spiralling out of the corona situation. Now centred in the eye of the storm, it is the disciplined vaccine drives free of misinformation and banal guesswork, which can take the nation to its goal of being considered a fully corona-free country.


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