The Dhaka north and south city corporations are reconsidering their decision to set up qurbani haats or sacrificial animal markets throughout Dhaka after the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 advised against the move.
The committee – also known as NTAC – on Friday advised not to set up such markets in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, and Chattogram metropolises. The decision came at their 14th meeting.
The Dhaka South City Corporation had already issued tenders for setting up 14 cattle markets in its region and created a health-safety guideline for sellers and buyers. But they are reevaluating their decision after the NTAC made its recommendation.
"Under the circumstances, the Dhaka South will hold a meeting on Sunday at 11:30am with its cattle market management committee for a solution," Md Rasel Sabrin, chief estate officer of Dhaka South, told The Business Standard.
Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation has already reduced the number of cattle markets in its region.
"The corporation was supposed to set up ten such markets, but so far, Dhaka North has confirmed only three Qurbani Haats. The number of sacrificial animal markets will not go beyond seven," said Md Muzammel Hoque, chief estate officer for Dhaka North.
The Dhaka North also launched a digital cattle market, which was inaugurated on Saturday.
Commenting on the matter, Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "Cattle markets in the heart of the city have been closed. Only a few markets around the city will be operated. I am urging city dwellers not to go to the markets, instead they should buy cattle through the online platform."
Echoing the mayor's call, the NTAC also advised people to buy sacrificial animals online, and recommended anyone over the age of fifty to refrain from going to cattle markets.
Professor Dr M Iqbal Arslan, member of the NTAC, said, "We have recommended these measures considering the present coronavirus situation."
Experts are also concerned that the cattle markets will become overcrowded, which in turn will increase the risk of more Covid-19 infections.
Prof Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director of Communicable Disease Control (CDC) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said, "Physical distancing is impossible in cattle markets.
"Furthermore, the weather is quite warm, so people at those markets will not be able keep their gloves and masks on for long. Even if cattle markets are closed, the sale of cattle must continue because it is a big business. Around 1.2 crore animals are sacrificed during Eid-ul-Adha celebrations every year."
Dr Ahmed continued, "So, the government can launch a central Qurbani system. After receiving payment, the government can handle the subsequent process – buying cattle directly from farmers, animal sacrifice, processing meat, delivery and even distribution among the poor.
"Such an initiative will allow people to carry out their religious sacrifice, and also reduce the risk of spreading the deadly virus."
The former director of CDC warned that if the government fails to control the spread of Covid-19 this time, the disease will repeat the occurrence of Eid-ul-Fitr and the impact this time will be even more serious.