- Experts underscore 18-point government instructions to avert Covid-19 spike
- Buses to run with 50% passengers with 60% fare hikes from Wednesday
- Biman also to comply with the instruction from Wednesday, railway after 4 April
- 14-day institutional quarantine for Europe returnees, home quarantine for others
- Malls had less gather, roads had fewer traffic Tuesday as it was a holiday
- But people crowded book fair, Dhaka University campus and adjacent spots
With more than 5,000 daily cases for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, health experts believe curbing Covid-19 infection is still possible if the 18-point government instructions are maintained strictly.
But if the instructions remain just on paper, the second wave of the pandemic will be catastrophic, they warn.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 Pandemic, said economic activities will continue since we cannot afford another lockdown.
"Therefore, we have to ensure isolation and quarantine to curb the infection. Virus safety measures must be followed while using public transportations. Besides, social, political and religious gatherings will have to be downsized," he said.
The virologist noted all the public offices will have to act coordinately as any mistake this time will push up the death tally, and affect the economy too.
In the wake of a resurgence in coronavirus infection, the government Monday issued an 18-point instruction.
On Tuesday, Bangladesh confirmed 45 deaths from the virus and also recorded 5,042 new cases while the infection rate reached 18.94%.
With the latest figures of infections and fatalities, total Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh now stands at 605,937 while the death toll reaches 8,994.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, consultant of the Covid-19 Pandemic Control at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research, said the government's instructions are not sufficient to check the infections, but the country does not have any alternative.
"As we cannot shut down everything, the focus should now be on the maximum implementation of the instructions. Otherwise, we might have to go for a complete shutdown again," he added.
Dr Mushtuq said local administration will chart out how the instructions will be implemented while people will have to take responsibility to maintain the virus safety.
"Hospitals that suspended Covid treatment will have to resume operations immediately. Besides, supplies of high flow nasal cannula and oxygen to hospitals will have to ramp up," he added.
Though the instructions were issued on Monday noon, there was almost no effect on Monday night. Public buses ran with sardine-packed passengers and devotees crowded the mosques as usual – marking a lax approach to virus safety measures.
But both the traffic pressure and number of people on roads were thin Tuesday as it was a public holiday. Public transports and the national flag carrier Bangladesh Biman say they will comply with the instructions from Wednesday while the Bangladesh Railway will implement those after 4 April.
60% transport fare hike from Wednesday
A 60% hike in bus fares will come into effect across the country from Wednesday, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said.
Quader said bus owners have to carry 50% passengers of their capacity and have to follow necessary health safety guidelines.
But buses ran Tuesday in the capital as usual.
Bahadur, a bus driver, said they did not get any instruction from the owners. "If the owners ask us to maintain health safety and keep half of the total seats empty, we will follow it then," he added.
Rail halves ticket sale
Followed by the government instruction, the Bangladesh Railway halved its ticket sales Tuesday, said Kamalapur Railway Station Master Md Rafiqul Islam.
"Today, we are selling tickets only for odd number seats," he told The Business Standard.
But trains will run with half of the capacities after 4 April since the railway has already sold tickets up to 3 April in advance. The station master said those passengers will travel as usual as their tickets could not be refunded.
Rafiqul Islam said passengers are checking in the station after maintaining the virus safety measures. "We have installed thermal scanners on the entrances and set up hand sanitising arrangements. Besides, trains are being disinfected before starting the trip," he noted.
But visiting the station, passengers were found negligent to health safety. Some had face masks, but there was no social distance maintained at the station.
Most shopping malls empty
Most of the shopping malls in the capital were closed Tuesday. A few were open despite the public holiday with customers few and far.
"There was no customer in the morning," Shimul Mia, a trader of Dhaka's Mouchak, told The Business Standard. He said both the public holiday and a surge in infection plummeted their sales.
14-day mandatory quarantine for Europe returnees
The government has made a 14-day institutional quarantine mandatory for all passengers coming to Bangladesh from the European countries.
The passengers will be released if they are tested negative after completing the quarantine, according to the guidelines issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on Tuesday.
These guidelines will be effective from 31 March until further notice.
The CAAB says the Europe returnees will be quarantined at government facilities or government-approved hotels while the passengers themselves will pay for the accommodations.
The civil aviation authority said passengers from any other country except Europe will have to complete the 14-day quarantine at home if they do not show any virus symptoms upon arrival.
People crowd book fair
The ongoing Ekushey Book Fair witnessed an almost doubled crowd Tuesday, though one of the 18-point instructions discourage mass gathering like fair.
Rozina Haque, a visitor to the fair, said she knows about the 18-point government instructions.
"If you continue the fair, people certainly will gather – it is like opening the door when keeping the windows shut. The fair can be stopped if the government finds the infection level concerning," she commented.
Anwarul Haque, assistant director of the Bangla Academy, said the fair had more visitors Tuesday, and they had been requesting the visitors to follow the virus safety measures.
Apart from the fairground, people thronged Dhaka University's TSC and adjacent spots. Many of them did not have face masks.