Local government officials are yet to receive any map of the Covid-19 infection-prone zones across the country
The Covid-19 curve continues its upward trend, but the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is still working to identify and map the red zones to be put under lockdown.
Expressing concerns, experts have criticised the delay as mismanagement and urged that the lockdown be enforced in coronavirus infection-prone areas on an urgent basis.
The government decided to lock down infection-prone areas across the country on June 1. However, local government officials are yet to receive any map of the zones that needs to be locked down.
The map is not ready yet, and no one could confirm when they will be finalised.
Alarmed about the future scenario if the lockdown process is delayed any further, experts said if the government fails to contain the spread of the virus it could cost the nation a lot in the long run.
Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and a virology expert, said, "The lockdown must strictly be enforced to bring transmission down from the peak.
"Mismanagement and a lack of coordination have clearly been observed. City mayors are saying that they will enforce the lockdown. Besides, the Ministry of Public Administration has already declared holidays in the red zones. This type of lack of coordination is misleading the people."
Earlier this week, the media – quoting sources from a recent National Technical Committee meeting – published a list of 45 areas in the capital, 11 areas in the port city Chattogram, the entire Gazipur district and parts of Narsingdi and Narayanganj designated as red zones.
Both mayors of the Dhaka city have been preparing to enforce the lockdown and sought detailed map of the zones for this purpose. But they could not move forward with the plan without a specific zoning map.
While visiting the capital's East Rajabazar area on Wednesday morning, Local Government Minister Tajul Islam told the media that the decision regarding the lockdown will be finalised at a meeting that same night.
But after the meeting the minister said, "The health ministry has the authority to declare red, yellow and green zones. It is not the responsibility of the LGRD ministry to declare zones or sub-zones.
"Mayors and other local government representatives have been instructed to be prepared to enforce the lockdown when the zones are announced."
He added that once a zone-based lockdown is declared, the local government department must properly carry out the assigned responsibilities.
The Business Standard talked to a few officials of the DGHS, and on condition of anonymity all of them said they are still working on detailed mapping of zones, and it is not finalised yet.
Commenting on the issue, virology expert Nazrul Islam said, "I do not understand where the problem is. The DGHS is providing information about Covid-19 infections. Then why they are being so late in finalising the map? Is there any gap in their information?"
Professor Shah Munir Hossain, a former director general of the DGHS, suggested strict lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Criteria for declaring red zones
The strategic working plan of the National Technical Committee has set the criteria to identify the coronavirus infection-prone areas.
If 60 or more people per one lakh in a city become infected in the last 14 days, it will be declared a red zone. For a rural area, the criterion is 10 or more infections per one lakh.
Also, if three to 59 people per one lakh people are infected in a city, it will be labelled as a yellow zone. A district administration must seek approval from the DGHS before declaring an area a red zone.
Confusion on lockdown in Bashundhara R/A
On Wednesday, an announcement was made through microphone in the capital's Bashundhara Residential Area that the zone will be under lockdown from Thursday midnight. Bhatara police station's Officer-in-Charge Moktaruzzaman confirmed the matter to the media.
Residents soon rushed to the shops as they were asked to stock up their daily essentials. But later on Thursday, it was found that the city corporation did not make such a decision yet.
Clearing the issue, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam later said, "The recent announcement regarding lockdown in Bashundhara Residential Area was the result of a miscommunication.
Lockdown in East Rajabazar continues
Strict lockdown in the capital's East Rajabazar area reached its ninth day on Thursday.
People's movement within the area is being tightly monitored. The volunteers and law enforcement personnel are keeping a log sheet to record the details of people who are coming in and going out of the zone.
Lockdown across the country
The Chattogram City Corporation enforced an "experimental" lockdown in the North Kattali area since June 16.
Few areas of Sylhet are scheduled to go under lockdown on Thursday midnight. Besides, a lockdown will start in four wards of the Cumilla City Corporation from Friday midnight, and continue till July 3.
Khulna district administration declared 14 areas as red zones on Thursday. Local administrations of a few more districts also declared red zones and lockdown measures the same day.