Although the Chattogram Civil Surgeon's Office declared Chattogram a risky area for contracting coronavirus, campaigns for the Chattogram City Corporation polls are underway.
Bangladesh's first corona-infected patient died yesterday, but the candidates are campaigning door-to-door, every day, amid this serious situation.
The Election Commission still wants to hold the polls, even though the authorities asked people across the country not to hold gatherings and meetings.
The commission has not yet imposed any restrictions on election campaigning. Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda claimed, at a programme in Chittagong on March 14, that business was going on as usual.
Ignoring the risks of coronavirus, the candidates of two major parties are campaigning in the wards of Chattogram city every day. These include Awami League's mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Bangladesh Nationalist Party's Dr Shahadat Hossain, and councilor candidates.
Sheikh Fazle Rabbi, the civil surgeon of Chattogram, said, "Chattogram is facing the highest risk of coronavirus infections. If the virus spreads here, it will not be easy to contain. We requested a ban on campaigning for the Chittagong City Corporation elections before anyone tested positive for corona in Bangladesh. We also sent a letter, but campaigning is underway."
A voter of Jamal Khan ward, Sabit Alam, said people are living in panic. "Many of us are not leaving home unless it is urgent. However, the EC has put people at more risk by not postponing the polls. If someone infected with coronavirus takes part in the campaigns, the virus is likely to spread rapidly."
When Rezaul Karim campaigned in some wards – including in Purbo Madarbari ward yesterday – hundreds of leaders and activists of Awami League, Jubo League, and Bangladesh Chhatra League were present at the time.
Asked about the issue, Rezaul said, "We have to go to the people for votes. As no restrictions have been imposed on that yet, we are continuing our campaigns. However, we have scaled that back too. If the EC gives us any instructions, we will comply."
When Shahadat campaigned in Mohra ward on Wednesday, hundreds of BNP leaders and activists were there with him.
Shahadat said, "The campaign is being run following the rules. There is a risk of corona infection, however, the EC has not given any instructions to us yet. We are ready to follow new instructions."
Meanwhile, regional election officer and Returning Officer Mohammad Hasanuzzaman said there was no possibility of delaying the polls. "However, some conditions will be set for running campaigns. There cannot be any public gatherings."
"The Election Commission will instruct the candidates to restrict their campaigns and run them according to rules."
Chattogram City Corporation elections will be held on March 29.