At a time when the country's daily death from Covid-19 is more than 200 and the infection rate around 30 per cent, the lockdown has been relaxed. The reason for the relaxation, as announced officially, is to facilitate movement of home-bound people on the eve of Eid-ul-Adha. This defies the health obligations and contradicts the very rationale and even the concept of lockdown. People, many of whom are least bothered about health protocols, may now think that lockdown is not to be taken seriously. The official warning and caution are merely an empty threat.
Thus the binary inherent in the decision negates the seriousness of any lockdown whatsoever ---strict, stricter and the strictest or shutdown. The fallacy of the official position gets exposed. Now the ticking pandemic bomb is most likely to gather pace for explosion. It may happen a week after the Eid vacation is over. Let us not forget that isolation of Dhaka from the rest of the country did not materialise and even people started leaving the capital a week earlier before what is dubbed the strictest lockdown. Some had to leave, fearing the prospect of no income during the restrictive period. But there were others who made good use of the occasion to visit their ancestral home in advance for celebration of Eid.
There are compulsive home-goers on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha every year. But the occasion had to be celebrated on a low-key last year. This year's Eid-ul-Fitr was no exception. Now the shadow of an ominous outbreak of the pandemic looms large. Although the authorities keep parroting the need for maintaining health protocols such as mandatory mask wearing, physical distancing on board the transports, these have been blatantly compromised. Except the trains leaving Kamalapur, neither buses nor launches/ferries have maintained any of the health guidelines. Mass movement and long tailback make a mockery of health protocols.
If these are not enough, there is heavy rush like the one in a normal festival time to shopping malls. If shoppers are not pushing and jostling like home-bound passengers to avail of a footing either on a launch or ferry risking their personal safety, they hardly show any uneasiness in the thick crowds. There is not the minimum awareness of the threat posed by a deadly virus. Their attention is more on shopping than on physical distancing. Then the cattle markets also present an equally, if not more, frightening conundrum of carefree crowds. All these are potentially super spreader events of coronavirus.
The problem with the mob or crowd mentality is that once it gets channelled to a particular direction, it cannot be stopped or redirected to a different direction. Then again, people do not learn from mistakes. Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, Uttarakhand is largely to blame for the spread of infection like wildfire and the consequent deaths in India. Also, election campaigns added fuel to the fire of the pandemic. Had such super spreader events not taken place, many argue, India would not have to pay heavy price of this order.
The latest indiscreet acts resorted to in various forms from mass movement to crowding at shopping malls and cattle markets need to be scrupulously avoided by sensitisation through mass media. Even currently, patients requiring medical oxygen and intensive care unit (ICU) treatment are not getting the support. Everyday patients are dying for want of hospital beds and ICU accommodation. In fact, hospitals are already overwhelmed. What will happen, if there is a fresh abnormal surge following the holiday fracas? The spectre of a health disaster experienced by India is likely to unfold. Now the question is, if the authorities are alive to the emerging danger and have any preparation for such an eventuality.