They are either holding on to the thought that “coronavirus cannot do us much harm” or pointing to the fact that “we do not have any coronavirus patient in our area to be afraid of”
The Padma River flows by the side of Rajshahi city. Padma garden is a famous ghat – a place that almost always remains surrounded by people of all categories.
On March 25, in the morning, only a few labourers and old men gathered there, two days after the shutdown was declared by the government.
Reluctance to acknowledge
Although the labourers were there to look for work, the old men came as part of their everyday morning meetup.
The intercity bus service of Rajshahi was suspended on March 19. The biggest market of the city was closed on March 24 and on the same day, the city had seen an overwhelming crowd engaged in panic buying.
The government declared to shut down public offices from March 26 to April 4 and deploy the army to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
However, none of the measures could convince these people of the dangers of Covid-19. The group of elderly citizens did not seem happy with the shutdown as they do not consider the virus capable enough to cause them any harm.
They were discussing how the shops were still open and police were not taking any action.
One of them was shocked when asked what they were doing in public places despite the shutdown.
"We are locals," he said.
He went on to explain, "Rajshahi city is famous for students. They create crowds. Now the educational institutes are closed and there is no gathering or crowd. We are locals and are having a simple chat about the current situation."
Another member of the group, Khobir Hossain, said, "I have been taking a morning walk for the last 22 years. I come here every morning. This is irresistible. Also, Rajshahi does not have any coronavirus patient. Then why would we worry?"
Though most of the big shops in the city were closed, a few hardware stores, barbershops and furniture shops were still open. The presence of customers at temporary tea stalls was also noticeable.
Sri Manik, who owns a barbershop, said he did not know he was supposed to close the shop during the shutdown.
"The number of our customers has dropped drastically. Still we opened for business as we have to run a family and I did not know there was a restriction on barbershops," he said.
Not all barbershop owners were unaware of the shutdown but were helpless with their business running low. They said they would close as soon as the army was deployed in the field.
Road construction was in progress on the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway route. The workers said they would go on holiday from March 26 but they did not like it.
It is because they get paid daily and their employers have not said anything about payments during the vacation.
Shezdar Ali, a day labourer, said, "Coronavirus infects the rich people. It will not infect us. We need to keep looking for work during the holiday for survival."
Sadly, this is the scenario not only in Rajshahi but in other cities, including Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet and Panchagarh, too. This is why the declaration of shutdown was not enough and the government had to deploy the armed forces.
Deployment of the army worked like magic in limiting gatherings in big places. Dak Bangla and Jalil Tower are two of the most crowded areas in Khulna, and they have been deserted already.
According to Bappy Emam, a resident of Boyra in Khulna, "Markets have been closed but it is hard to control the movement of people in residential areas. The temporary shops are open and people are still moving."
A resident of Panchagarh said people were moving in the city in small numbers until the army was deployed.
In Bajitpur upazila of Kishoreganj, people could not care any less about coronavirus when police started their duties of monitoring movements.
In the remote localities, people are still going out, saying they are getting suffocated at home.
Outside Dhaka, people are more reluctant to acknowledge the existence of the coronavirus pandemic. They are either holding on to the thought that "coronavirus cannot do us much harm" or pointing to the fact that "we do not have any coronavirus patient in our area to be afraid of".
Coronavirus patients outside Dhaka
An US returnee mother and her son tested positive for coronavirus on March 22 followed by a drama over the lockdown of the locality in Gaibandha's Sadullapur upazila.
On March 26, two suspected patients were admitted to Khulna Medical College Hospital.
Requesting anonymity, a doctor of the hospital said a suspected patient having acute pneumonia had died in the intensive care unit.
"There is no coronavirus patient in Rajshahi. This is because we do not have testing facilities. We do not have kits.
"And having kits is not enough. We need a special laboratory to conduct tests, which we do not have here," he explained.
The physician said there are suspected patients but nothing should be said without testing and "we should be scared as we do not know the result of the suspected ones".
"I do not know how many of us have already become a carrier of the disease without knowledge," he said.
"Lack of information is only increasing the risk of carrying the disease and infecting others. Also, lack of solid data has turned out to be a barrier in creating consciousness," added the doctor.
An intern at the hospital said personal protective equipment was not available there.
He said the interns are given surgical masks in every three days even though one should wear a mask for a maximum of three to four hours.
A few people came forward to provide doctors with personal protective equipment of their own accord. Thus, no help was provided by the authorities concerned.
The testing situation is the same in Sylhet and Khulna.
Chattogram, on the other hand, received the necessary to set up a laboratory and has started testing.