Is it possible for people to maintain social distancing at a crowded cattle market?
It seems quite difficult, especially in the context of Bangladesh where people enjoy buying animals in a traditional atmosphere of togetherness. But their coming close to one another may quicken the Covid-19 transmission, according to health experts.
Realising the risk factor, law enforcing agencies have put forward a suggestion that the trade of sacrificial animals for the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha be done online, instead of setting up cattle markets here and there. E-commerce platforms are already popular with customers.
Health experts, too, have been emphasising virtual markets owing to increasing Covid-19 cases, especially after the government allowed offices and public transportation to reopen.
Law enforcers say that both traders and customers seldom follow health directives, including maintaining social distancing, while trading at markets. Besides, the environment in cattle markets is unhygienic.
They have also said that temporary markets for sacrificial animals, set up at various places across the country, including Dhaka city, are venues that have a high risk of spreading the virus this year.
Hence, law enforcing agencies recently sent a report with several proposals to the home ministry, with the aim to curb virus spread during cattle sales on the occasion of Eid.
According to the report, cattle markets in Gabtoli, Sharulia, Ashulia, Mawna and Kapasia in Gazipur, Chandina in Comilla, Noakhali's Ramganj, Tangail's Mirzapur, Netrokona's Sidli, Jinaidhah, Chuadanga, Kushtia Satkhira, Khulna, Bogura and Rajshahi's Putia are not following health directives, posing an increasing risk of virus transmission.
Sohel Rana, an assistant inspector general of police, said, "We have taken some special measures to enforce social distancing and health directives [in cattle markets set up already]. Police are working with all other stakeholders to implement them."
He also said police will tighten security at cattle markets, with the deployment of police and detective members. "We have quick response teams and will do technology surveillance on the markets."
Lelin Choudhury, a physician and public health expert, said mass gatherings at cattle markets will lead to another big outbreak of the virus. If [physical] cattle markets are not closed, it will be a threat to public health.
"Considering the pandemic, cattle markets should not be set up this year, particularly in red zones. It will hurt the national economy more than it will benefit it. Hospitals will not be able to take on extra pressure of patients," he added.
What are the other proposals?
Police proposed that authorities should start cattle markets 15 days before Eid, which will reduce crowds at markets.
According the report, makeshift cattle markets in Dhaka should be shifted to areas with low infection rates such as the Rajuk project area, Tongi Ijtema field, Uttara 3rd project, Rajuk Jilmil project, Purbachol, 300-Feet and Aftabnagar areas.
Each entry point of markets must have hand sanitising facilities while both traders and buyers must wear masks. Their body temperatures must also be checked.
Disinfectants should be sprayed on vehicles and inside cattle markets. Medical teams should be kept at every market to collect coronavirus samples. Toilets and potable water should be made available at markets too.