Unemployed construction worker Mohammed Nijam (Mohammed Nijam) is waiting for the ferry from Bangladesh’s capital among hundreds of traveling companions. He knows he is at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but he feels that another blockade is imminent. The risk of staying in Dhaka is greater.
“Even if I don’t have a job, I have to pay rent every month,” he said, adding that his landlord has been annoying him for money, even if he is only struggling to support himself.
“I would rather go to my village home and live the life that God allows me to live.”
Nijam is one of tens of millions of Bangladeshis shopping and traveling this week, and the government allowed Islamic Eid al-Fitr during the controversial 8-day suspension during the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown.
Health experts criticized the moratorium, warning that it could exacerbate the continued surge caused by the highly contagious variant of Delta, which was originally discovered in neighboring India.
Benazir Ahmed, a public health expert and former head of the government’s health bureau, said: “There is a shortage of beds and intensive care units, and our health care providers are exhausted.”
“Therefore, if the situation worsens and more patients come to the hospital for treatment, it is almost impossible to deal with the crisis.”
As the virus spread, almost everything in Bangladesh was ordered to be closed on July 1, from markets to mass transportation. Soldiers and border guards patrolled the streets. Thousands of people were arrested and imprisoned for violating the blockade.
However, even with the new restrictions, the number of deaths from the virus still hovered around 200 people per day, and the number of people infected per day is still around 11,000, both of which are considered underestimated. On Sunday, 225 deaths and 11,758 infections were reported.
Despite warnings from experts — only 4 million of the country’s 160 million people have been fully vaccinated — the government announced that from July 15 to 23, all restrictions will be lifted and everything will be reopened so that people can celebrate This holiday. Usually good for the economy.
“However, in all cases, people must be vigilant, wear masks, and strictly follow health instructions,” said a government policy statement.
Government officials did not respond to criticism of the move.
An official from the Department of Public Administration who issued the suspension order mentioned the policy statement to the Associated Press when asked for comment. There was no response to phone calls and emails to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health.
Fahad Hussein, a junior minister of the Ministry of Public Administration, told local media on Saturday that the blockade needs to be relaxed because many businesses revolve around holidays.
In the capital, the result is crowds of people flooding into shopping malls and markets for holiday shopping, while others crowded ports and bus stations trying to get to their rural hometowns.
‘Super Spread Incident’
During the last major Islamic holiday in May, an estimated 10 million of Dhaka’s 20 million residents left to celebrate with their families.
There may be a similar number this week, especially because many people like construction worker Nijam may wish to wait for the next lockdown of their village.
Among the people shopping in Dhaka New Market is Shah Alam, a dental technician.
“Because the government has relaxed the situation for a few days, we will go to the market to buy the necessary goods,” Alam said. “We are working hard to comply with health and safety guidelines.”
Health expert Ahmed (Ahmed) said that he believes that the main risk of the suspension of the lockdown is that people from cities will spread the virus to their villages and those who carry the virus. When they pack into the market for shopping, especially in the bull market, Millions of people will buy animals to sacrifice for Eid.
He said: “From remote villages to cities, hundreds of thousands of bull markets may be arranged across the country, and cattle sellers and other people engaged in this business are mainly from rural areas, and they may carry the virus.”
According to his estimates, 30-40 million people will gather in mosques or open spaces across the country to pray on Wednesday.
“The Eid al-Fitr congregation will become a super-spread event,” he said.
He said that for a country where nearly 1.1 million people have been infected and nearly 18,000 people have died from the pandemic, the month after the holiday will be a critical moment.
“We may actually not be able to avoid catastrophic situations,” he said.