Many people roam around without following health safety rules or social distancing norms
East Rajabazar has so far been the only neighbourhood in the capital which has gone under lockdown as a red zone to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Entry to and exit from the area are strictly being maintained. But many people inside the virus hotspot do not bother about health protocols or social physical distancing norms.
People roam about in the area without even wearing masks. Four or five people were seen gathering in front of some houses and engaging in chitchat, with no care for social distancing.
The East Rajabazar lockdown marked its sixth day on Monday. There is a strict stay-at-home order for 15 days. No resident is allowed to go outside except those with emergency needs. If anyone goes out in an emergency, he or she has to abide by health safety rules such as wearing a mask. Volunteers in every lane are asking people on megaphones to follow all these directives.
During a visit to the locked-down area, The Business Standard correspondent found that not even police personnel were using masks.
According to the Communicable Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act 2018, if an infected person negligently infects others, he or she will be sentenced to up to six months of imprisonment or fined Tk1 lakh or suffer both.
Experts said people can be penalised this way for not wearing masks out of negligence that might lead to infecting others.
In the last six days of the lockdown, no one has been subjected to punishment for not conforming to health protocols. The authorities are now considering going tough on getting people to obey health safety rules, according to sources at 27 no ward councillor office.
Masud Hossain Suman, a convener of volunteers in the locked-down area, said the city corporation would be operating two mobile courts from Tuesday to bring to book those defying social distancing norms and health rules.
Meanwhile, the authorities concerned have kept only one gate of the neighbourhood open and have arranged disinfectants there. However, The Business Standard saw people sending and receiving products and food items through small holes at other closed gates, violating instructions from the police and volunteers.
The city corporation authorities have strictly forbidden sending food outside from the areas under the red zone, volunteers said, adding that sending or receiving food through the closed gates might further worsen the coronavirus situation in the area.
The city corporation has also asked the locals to bring necessary items that are not available in the area from outside with the help of the volunteers so that they can disinfect the packages before giving them to the locals. But many did not seem to care about such instructions.
Faridul Rahman Khan, councillor of ward no 27 (East Rajabazar is part of it), said 160 volunteers alongside police personnel were working to make the lockdown a success.
"But keeping people indoors is a difficult task. We have strictly controlled people from going outside till the 6th day of the lockdown. Now, we are thinking of easing the lockdown a bit for a day or two and after that, we will tighten it even more," he added.
All offices to remain shut in red, yellow zones
The government has finally reached a decision to keep shut all offices and businesses in areas to be flagged as red and yellow zones, giving relief to private sector employees, who reside in East Rajabazar, in particular.
Residents of areas whose offices are located outside the zones will also observe the closure.
The Cabinet Division said offices in green zones, however, would be able to operate on a limited scale, according to a notification issued on Monday.
It also said the ongoing restrictions on public movement had been extended till June 30.
In the last six days, private sector workers suffered much while going to their respective offices as they were not allowed to go out of the locked down area.
The Dhaka North City Corporation has allocated 15 tonnes of rice and Tk12 lakh in cash for 3000 poor families in East Razabazar. However, the councillor has received neither the relief nor the cash aid yet.
Councillor Faridur Rahman Khan of ward 27 said, "From the first day of the lockdown, we have started distributing relief to poor people on our own. We do not depend on government allocations only. We will give food to the poor as long as they need it through our own initiatives."
He said the local authorities had distributed food among 25 families on the first day of the lockdown, 40 on the second day, 60 on the third day, 50 on the fourth day and 250 families on the fifth day.