Experts say the health ministry alone is not responsible for dealing with the pandemic and that all ministries need to work in coordination
Lack of coordination among ministries in dealing with Covid-19 is still prevalent as Bangladesh has passed four months since the first infection was reported and the number of cases now stands at around 2 lakh.
The advice of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 is still being ignored.
At its 14th meeting on July 10, the government-formed committee advised stopping travel from Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram to other places during Eid holidays to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As per the recommendation, the Ministry of Health on July 15 directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to take necessary steps for ensuring nobody travelled out of these regions.
However, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said on July 16 that public transport would be available across the country for the upcoming Eid and like every year, heavy vehicles would be stopped for three days before Eid.
At the meeting, experts said the spread of the virus has yet to come under control and expressed concern over free public movement in different areas including Dhaka. The committee recommended strict control measures in and outside the capital.
The NTAC recommends that no cattle markets should be set up in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha. Instead, the committee proposed that the government initiate digital marketplaces for sacrificial cattle trade. If the sacrificial animal market is set up in other areas, there must be preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
However, ignoring the committee's recommendations, both city corporation authorities have so far allowed opening 11 sacrificial animal haats (markets). The number of cattle markets may also increase.
Earlier, the NTAC had recommended not to open shopping malls during Eid-ul-Fitr and to stop travelling out of Dhaka city. The recommendations were not taken into account at the time. And according to the committee's forecast, the number of infections increased after Eid.
Experts say the health ministry alone is not responsible for dealing with the pandemic, and all ministries have to work in coordination.
Professor Nazrul Islam, a member of the NTAC and a noted virologist, told The Business Standard no one paid any heed to their recommendations. "We are making recommendations to the government but there is no implementation.
"People of our country are usually reluctant to wear masks. It is more difficult to run cattle markets or mass transportation following health guidelines. If cattle markets are set up in the hotspots and if travel from virus hotspots continues across the country, infections will increase after Eid. It will be witnessed after 15 days of Eid," he said.
Another member of the NTAC Professor Iqbal Arslan said, "We have given our opinion so that Covid-19 infections do not increase in the country. All ministries, including the health ministry, should follow this."
Not following the recommendations of the NTAC means that they are being ignored, said Dr M Mushtuq Husain, consultant, Covid-19 Pandemic Control at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research.
"The Ministry of Health is the main body responsible for dealing with the pandemic but there should be coordination among other ministries because the health ministry cannot do anything regarding setting up cattle markets in hotspots, which is under the jurisdiction of a local government body," he added.
Dr Mushtuq said that now the infections in urban areas have decreased slightly while increasing in rural areas. Ignoring the recommendations of the technical committee, if public transport is continued during Eid, infections will increase in the whole country.
It will be difficult to save both lives and livelihoods if coordinated and serious steps are not taken now, he said, adding that at present, in the areas where the infection is more or in "red zones," everyone has to be tested, quarantined and isolated.
"Arrangements have to be made to prevent infection in the green zone. Otherwise, the infection will not stop soon, and the loss of life and economic damage will increase," added Dr M Mushtuq.