The number of Covid-19 cases in the country has so far stood at more than 52,000. And the highest infection rate count continues to be in Dhaka city – around 51 percent to be exact.
Till May 31, Mohakhali has been the major hotbed with a maximum of 408 coronavirus patients till now, followed by Mirpur with 369, Mohammadpur with 339, Mugda 330 and Uttara 315.
Health experts are of the opinion that coronavirus transmission will aggravate to a great extent if it cannot be stemmed by separating Dhaka from the rest of Bangladesh, and ramping up tests.
The government has decided to divide the entire country into three zones – red, yellow, and green – to prevent a further spread of the virus. The three-colour zone classification will be done based on the severity of infections and deaths. Various measures will be taken to rein in the deadly virus.
It may be noted, though, that neighbouring India split the whole country into three containment zones amid a lockdown at the beginning of May. The first phase of a nationwide lockdown was put in place from March 24 with a complete shutdown of all services and factories. A fifth lockdown phase is now in progress but the country has eased the lockdown in different zones to allow a resumption of economic activities.
In Bangladesh, the general holidays announced by the government on March 26 were extended several times to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The holidays ended on May 31 with no further extension.
Then came the decision to segment the country into three-colour zones on June 1.Health experts had been pressing for the move since the end of April.
Terming it a right decision though it came late in the day, they stressed a strict implementation of the move without any delay.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to the World Health Organisation's Southeast Asia region, suggested isolating Dhaka completely from the rest of the country in the way India did in the case of Delhi.
The number of tests has to be increased by putting the capital under a strict lockdown. It is possible to control the Covid-19 infection in the city within 21 days by testing all suspected cases, isolating the infected ones and quarantining those who come in contact with them, he told The Business Standard.
An analysis of the May 31 data of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) reveals that coronavirus patients have been identified in 215 neighbourhoods in the capital. Among them, Mohakhali has turned out to be the leading cluster, with the highest number, 408, of positive cases.
Among other major clusters, Mirpur recorded 369 cases, Mohammadpur 339, Mugda 330 and Uttara 315.
Besides, 11 other areas, including, Khilgaon, Moghbazar and Dhanmondi, have registered over 200 cases each. Moreover, Gulshan, Khilgaon and Bongshal are among 11 other neighbourhoods with over 100 Covid-19 patients each.
Prof Muzaherul Huq said the entirety of Dhaka has to be put in the red zone with severe restrictions. Otherwise, the number of Covid-19 patients will go up in the city areas where there are a few at present.
If the infection can be controlled in Dhaka strictly, similar steps will have to be taken in Narayanganj and Gazipur after 21 days, he added.
"This is a last chance to control the Covid-19 outbreak. If we cannot capitalise on it, the number of infections and deaths will increase all the more," he said.
Speaking on the issue, the additional secretary of the health ministry, Habibur Rahman Khan, said the entire city of Dhaka will not be locked down although the infection rate is the highest here.
The government has no plan to confine two crore people inside the capital. However, there will be restrictions on the movement of people in areas with many Covid-19 patients.
When asked if it was late to decide on dividing the country into three zones, he said, "Every country has a different context. We were not late in taking the decision. We have taken decisions wherever and whenever they have been required."
He said zoning will be done within the next week. The virus has not infected 80 percent areas of the country so measures will be taken to keep those areas free of infection.