Exasperating experts celebrate Bangladesh lifting lockdown

Mohammed Nijam, a construction worker and unemployed, waited among hundreds of other travelers to catch a ferry to Bangladesh's capital. He knew he was at risk of contracting the coronavirus but felt it was more risky to stay in Dhaka, where another lockdown was looming.

Exasperating experts celebrate Bangladesh lifting lockdown

He said that he had to pay rent each month, even though he has no work. He also stated that his landlord was constantly pestering him for money while he struggled to feed himself. "I would rather live in my village and have a good life, as God allows."

Nijam was among the many millions of Bangladeshis who traveled and bought goods this week, despite a controversial eight-day suspension in the country's coronavirus lockdown. This is because the government has granted permission for Eid al-Adha to take place. Health experts warn that the suspension could lead to an increase in the contagious delta variant which was first discovered in India.

Be-Nazir Ahmed (a former chief of the government’s Health Directorate) stated that "already there is a shortage of beds, ICUs and while our health care professionals are exhausted." "So, if the situation gets worse and more patients visit hospitals, it will become almost impossible to manage the crisis."

The spread of the virus was so severe that almost everything in Bangladesh, from mass transportation to markets, was closed on July 1. For violating the lockdown, soldiers and border guards patrolled streets. Thousands were arrested and taken to jail.

Despite the restrictions, daily virus infections were still at around 11,000 and virus deaths hovered around 200 per day. Both are thought to be undercounts. Sunday saw 225 deaths and 11,758 infected.

Experts warned that the restrictions on vaccinations would not be lifted, and only 4 million of 160 million citizens were fully vaccinated. The government announced that everything would be open for celebrations between July 15 and 23. This is a good thing for the economy.

A government policy statement stated that "But, in every situation people must remain alert, use facemasks, and strictly follow health instructions."

Officials from the government have not responded to criticisms of the move. When asked about the matter, a Ministry of Public Administration official referred The Associated Press directly to the policy statement. The Health Ministry did not return calls or emails.

Farhad Hossain (Minister of Public Administration), said that the lockdown must be relaxed because a lot of businesses revolve around the festival.

In the capital, there have been large crowds of people crowded into markets and malls to shop for holiday gifts. Others have flocked to bus stations and ports to get to their rural homes.

An estimated 10 million Dhaka residents left Dhaka to celebrate the May 20th major Islamic festival. This week could see a similar number of people travel, particularly since many, like Nijam the construction worker may want to stay put until the next lockdown in their villages.

Shah Alam, a dentist, was among the large crowd shopping at Dhaka’s New Market.

Alam stated, "As the government has eased the situation for a few more days, we're coming to the markets to purchase necessary goods." "We're trying to adhere to the safety guidelines for health."

Ahmed, a health expert, stated that he sees two main risks to suspending the lockdown: people from the city spreading it to their villages, and people spreading it while they shop at markets, particularly cattle markets, where millions will purchase animals to sacrifice for Eid al Adha.

He said that there could be hundreds of thousands of cattle market arrangements across the country, starting in remote villages and ending in cities. The cattle sellers and other business people are mostly from rural areas and may bring viruses with them.

His estimates are that between 30 and 40 million people will attend the prayer service in open fields or mosques across the country on Wednesday.

He said, "The Eid congregations will be a superspreading phenomenon."

He stated that the month following the festival would be crucial for a country suffering from nearly 1.1 million cases and almost 18,000 deaths due to the pandemic.

He said, "We may not be able to avoid a catastrophe situation."

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