Most people defy safety directives

Risks continue to increase

Amdadul Haque

A section of people is showing reluctance to comply with the state directives to follow safety rules to contain transmission of coronavirus despite stringent orders.

Taking advantage of limited flexibility to livelihood many people are simply ignoring the safety precautions while roaming around in public places, especially on highways, roads, in the markets and shopping malls.

What is most worrying is that safety precautions are not even being properly followed in hospitals. Only the instruction to use hand gloves and mask are being followed in most cases. A very few seem to be maintaining social distance.

Many people are overcrowding on the roads, in the shops and in the markets. Apart from limited number of passenger buses, many types of public transports are plying on the roads despite the shutdown. In many places it seems that traffic congestion is also increasing every day.

Meanwhile, the presence of transports is increasing on roads across Bangladesh by the day defying the stay-at-home instruction of the government during the ongoing public holiday for containing the COVID-19 outbreak. Even, as per a report, at least 211 people were killed and 227 people were injured in 201 road accidents in April alone.

Currently almost all types of public transports, including CNG-run auto rickshaws, human haulers, illegal vehicles like easy bikes, water pump mounted transports, are crowding the highways and city streets across the country defying the ban on plying of public transports during the general holiday.

Mismanagement in ensuring the shutdown, lack of coordination among the authorities and law enforcement agencies and the worse - people’s tendency not to follow orders have been blamed for the situation.

According to a report of Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, in April 97 fatal road accidents occurred involving trucks and covered vans, 63 accidents occurred involving motorcycles, 29 occurred involving battery-run rickshaws and easy bikes, 28 occurred involving water pump mounted vehicles, 22 occurred involving CNG-run auto rickshaws and 17 accidents occurred involving private cars.
Additional inspector general for highway police Mahbubur Rahman told Bangladesh Post that some goods-laden vehicles were carrying passengers by avoiding highways and instead choose to ply on feeder and local roads.

In such a scenario, experts said that in order to win the fight against coronavirus, the government's guidelines on hygiene should not just be on paper, the terms of the guidelines must be complied with at all levels. Otherwise, worse situation may lie ahead.

Dr ANM Nuruzzaman, a physician who was earlier a director at the Directorate General of Health Service, told Bangladesh Post that practicing social distancing in a country like Bangladesh is "next to impossible".

"Social distancing is a way of controlling infectious disease. But in a densely populated country like Bangladesh, you can't enforce social distancing in many areas," he said.

He said, "Especially, consider the slums in Dhaka and Chittagong where millions of people live. They are living in such close congested places that it's unthinkable to enforce social distancing there."

On public awareness, he further said, “Individual awareness has become the biggest problem. People have to follow hygiene rules and guidelines to protect themselves. At the same time, it is important to follow the right guidelines without abusing the limited opportunities provided by the government for trade and commerce.”

The Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Habibur Rahman Khan told Bangladesh Post that most people are still obeying the instructions. However, it is also true that many people are not following the conditions of the instructions properly with the opportunity of relaxation. This can increase the risk of infection.

However, one of the six most important conditions for driving a private car on the road is to keep the windows open so that air can circulate. But most of the private cars plying on the roads are using air conditioners as usual.

Besides, one of the conditions for the rickshaws and three-wheelers is to clean the seats and the places where passengers can touch them with disinfectant before starting every fresh passenger trip. In reality, no rickshaw puller or autorickshaw driver is abiding by this condition.

There are conditions to ensure open air circulation in different levels of offices, restaurants and shopping malls. Employees have been told to strengthen their personal safety. The use of masks by consumers and employees in restaurants is mandatory. But many employees were seen working without masks in several restaurants. Many customers have also been seen shopping without wearing masks.

The shopping malls have been directed to set a monitoring device at the entrance to measure the temperature of those who enter the mall. Only those whose temperature is normal will be able to enter. There are instructions to increase ventilation in shopping malls. Everyone has to maintain a distance of at least one meter when entering and exiting. But most of the shopping malls that are open are not paying attention to the hygiene and guidelines.

According to the Ministry of Health, in the first week of this month, the government's health department issued about 500 guidelines on 47 issues for livelihood of the people and facilitating economic activities. These conditions are being considered by the Directorate of Health Services as applicable hygiene regulations in dealing with coronavirus. These issues are also being highlighted in the bulletin of the Health Directorate by the government every day.

Director General of the Directorate of Health Services, Professor Abul Kalam Azad said, "Among the recommendations of the expert committee, we have declared that the most acceptable conditions are essential to be implemented and complied with in all areas. At the same time, any drastic, moderate or minor measures announced by the government at any time should be properly followed.”