A strict adherence to lockdown rules, staying indoors, and maintaining social distancing and hygiene is the reason why Tolarbag has been able to slow down Covid-19 transmission
Time literally stopped in the North Tolarbag area of Mirpur under Dhaka city when the first death from the Covid-19 was reported there on March 21 last.
The area was locked down the following day, with strict restrictions on public movement. Roads and alleys, shops and markets – everything went silent all of a sudden, sporting the look of a haunted place. An invisible but highly contagious germ took away the residents' sleep.
But the residential area has begun recovering from the Covid-19 rampage, with the virus transmission slowing down and the recovery rate among patients becoming high.
So far, 19 people from there have tested positive and 15 of them have recovered and gone back to a normal life. After receiving treatment, two others tested negative in the first phase and are waiting for the final test. And, the remaining two have died.
Tolarbag, under Dhaka North City Corporation, may be a good example for other areas in the city, or perhaps the whole country, about how Covid-19 can be tackled effectively.
Shuvashis Biswas, president of the House-Owners' Association of the area, revealed the "secret" behind their increasing rate of success in fighting the coronavirus.
He says that strictly adhering to lockdown rules, staying indoors, and maintaining social distancing and hygiene – the very known methods against Covid-19 which are too loosely followed in densely populated Bangladesh – are key to success.
In Tolarbag, all shops except pharmacies are shut down every day by 2pm, following the government order. Also, almost every residential building has provided hand-washing facilities at the gate for the residents while some have even restricted the entry of housemaids.
All gates were closed from the very first day when the Covid-19 case was reported in Tolarbag. Still now, residents use small doors to receive emergency services like food and medical supplies from the main street.
"Most of the buildings have prohibited their residents from going to the markets. The area has a superstore and some other delivery facilities which supply goods to the residents' doorsteps," said Sartaj Alam, a resident from there.
Shuvashis Biswas, the president of the house owners' association, said the law enforcing agencies, local administration and ruling party men have been helping them in maintaining the lockdown rules.
Dhaka North City Corporation workers spray disinfectants once every two days in Tolarbag, and they said they will keep doing this until the crisis is over, said Abdur Rashid Akon, a resident.
Some Awami League members have also been raising awareness through announcements on loudspeakers and delivering grocery items to people's doorsteps, he added.
Government food aid has been distributed several times in the area, said Md Jalal Uddin, a resident who recovered from the disease more than a week ago.
Residents said the Institute Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research collected samples several times from there. They knocked on each and every door to search for people with minimal Covid-19 symptoms. The Friday Jummah prayer has also been stopped to check the outbreak.
"Everybody follows the same routine every day: Wake up in the morning, stay very clean all through the day, survive and hope for good days. Hope is a good thing, after all," said Zubair Sezan, another person who triumphed in his battle against Covid-19.
"Tolarbag is recovering. Let's hope for good days," he added.
However, some residents allege that the entry points to the area are often left unguarded at times when police leave their stations that have been set up there. This happens especially during the rotation of duty shifts.
However, Mahmuda Akter Lucky, additional deputy commissioner of Mirpur Division of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, denied the allegation.
"We always keep watch on the people of Tolarbag to ensure that they follow the isolation rules or lockdown process," she said.