Wearing masks remains at the top of the must-do safeguards, suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO), against the most-dreaded novel coronavirus.
Some governments have been rather defiant as far as compliance with the WHO suggestions is concerned. Instead, they have conveyed wrong messages to their respective population. The top leaders of, at least, a couple of countries, personally, refused to wear masks. And such defiance has been taking a heavy toll, in terms of Covid-19 infections and deaths, on these countries. One of the leaders tested corona-positive with mild symptoms and has recovered recently. However, both the leaders had to make public appearances wearing masks in the face of strong public criticism at home and beyond.
The authorities in Bangladesh from the very beginning have been alive and respectful to the WHO safety guidelines. It launched a vigorous campaign to make people aware of those. What, however, has been lacking is field-level monitoring of the extent of compliance with safety guidelines.
The reality is that a section of the population has not been adequately conscious about the risks involved in ignoring the health safety measures.
The use of masks is a case in point.
A sizeable section of the population moving in and around every crowded place in cities and towns, big or small, does not wear masks. Some do have masks, but those are pushed down to their chins. The relevant authorities, however, have been indifferent to such widespread non-compliance.
The cabinet division in a notification, issued on June 30 last, made it mandatory for all to wear masks while going outside their homes. The health services division of the ministry of health also issued a separate notification on July 11 making the use of masks mandatory in some specific areas. But the notifications did not mention punishment for non-compliance. Nor there are measures to enforce the directive on the ground.
Some people are opposed to any sort of restrictions, even though those are meant for their good. Unless they are forced, they would not comply with those. Some others tend to react angrily if they are asked to adhere to rules.
A local-level leader of the youth wing of the ruling party, allegedly, physically assaulted a police officer on Tuesday last in Pallabi when the latter asked the former to wear a mask.
Had there been a legal provision for imposing fines on the violators of health safety guidelines, wearing of masks in particular, along with strict enforcement of the same, more people would have complied with.
However, the enforcement of laws remains a serious problem in Bangladesh.
For instance, the government, some years back passed the anti-tobacco law. Under that piece of legislation, anyone found smoking in public is liable to pay a fine of Tk 300.
Violation of such a provision has been rampant.
These days, the passengers hardly smoke inside public transports, but the drivers do. Such violations have been taking place with total impunity.
The compliance with the health safety measures suggested by the WHO is an important prerequisite to stave off the virus. Wearing of masks is the number one requirement. Since the government has opened up almost everything relaxing most of the restrictions, it has to ensure that the people wear masks while they are outside their homes.