Mechanism hardly seen to enforce Covid curbs

The authorities are yet to take effective steps to enforce the government-imposed fresh Covid restrictions in Dhaka and other places across the country.

The Dhaka district administration was conducting only three mobile courts and Dhaka Metropolitan Police engaged only one magistrate to monitor the enforcement in the capital, according to officials. 

The Dhaka North City Corporation and the Dhaka South City Corporation did not conduct any mobile court, even on the third day of the restrictions, with officials saying that they were yet to receive any instruction from the government to do so.

Many people were still moving outside without wearing masks, dining at restaurants without carrying Covid vaccination certificates while buses were running with passengers full of their capacities violating the restrictions.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told New Age that they had a shortage of magistrates and had been in talks with the public administration ministry to address the problem.

BRTA director enforcement Md Sarwar Alam said that they had 10 executive magistrates for conducting mobile courts and two of them were on sick leave.

The government on Monday issued 11-point restrictions, mandating the use of masks during movement outside the house, at shopping malls, shops, markets and public places or else they would be brought to justice, amid a sharp rise in Covid cases after the detection of the Omicron variant in the country.

The restrictions also include showing Covid vaccination certificates to dine at restaurants and stay at hotels. As part of the restrictions, the government also banned social, religious and political gatherings in open spaces.

DMP’s lone executive magistrate Sanjib Das said he could not conduct any mobile court Saturday due to illness.

Dhaka district administration executive magistrate Meskatul Jannat Rabeya was entrusted with the job of conducting mobile court instead, he said.

DMP deputy commissioner operations Hayatul Islam Khan admitted the shortage of magistrates to enforce Covid-19 restrictions in Dhaka.

‘We are trying to increase the number of magistrates by talking with the district administration,’ he said.

Dhaka district administration has 18 executive magistrates out of 25 available for conducting mobile courts for different purposes, according to officials. 

Conducting the mobile court on behalf of DMP, Dhaka district administration executive magistrate Rabeya fined dozens of people for not wearing masks at shopping malls, shops and open spaces.

At Paltan China Town Shopping Mall in the capital’s Naya Paltan area, the manager of Easy was fined Tk 200 for not wearing the mask and several visitors were also fined for entering the mall without wearing a mask. 

Speaking to New Age during the operation of her mobile court, Rabeya said they had been mainly trying to create awareness among people for wearing the mask in public places.

‘We are fining people according to their ability. We also directed the shopping mall authorities to ensure that no one entered the place without wearing a mask,’ she added.

Dhaka district administration assistant commissioner and executive magistrate Md Jahangir Hossein said that three mobile courts had realised TK 17,500 in fine from 33 cases for violating health rules in Demra, Cantonment and Paltan area in Dhaka city.

BRTA’s six mobile courts realised Tk 1,08,100 fines in 53 cases, including Tk 42,100 in 42 cases for violating health rules.

Experts said that the government should take decisions according to their implementation capacity.

‘If the government does not strictly enforce the restrictions, it will become a mockery to the people,’ said epidemiologist AM Zakir Hussain.

He also said that the government should ensure the engagement of public representatives and community people to increase awareness among people over wearing the mask and provide free masks for the low-income group.

Public health expert Abu Jamil Faisel, member of the Epidemiology and Public Health Committee of the Directorate General of Health Services, said that the government ordered the restrictions without consulting the stakeholders, including the National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19.

‘The government should monitor and enforce whether the health rules were followed or not. Otherwise, the restrictions would bring no benefit,’ he said.

Health minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday said in an event in Manikganj that Covid infections had been increasing alarmingly and that the situation would be serious if the government-imposed 11-point guidelines were not followed appropriately.

Maximum bus drivers and helpers in Dhaka were found without wearing masks and not vaccinated.

The city buses, including the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation buses, were running at full capacity.

Mohammad Anwar, a driver of Bihanga Paribahan, said that he did not receive the Covid-19 vaccine and the company was yet to give any instruction to him in this regard.

‘We do not even know the buses will run half of its capacity,’ Anwar added.

As per the government order, the international travellers arriving in Bangladesh must have Covid negative certificates and must undergo rapid antigen tests.

The order further said that trains, buses and launches would operate at half capacity while the drivers and their assistants must be vaccinated.

Unvaccinated students aged above 12 shall not be allowed in educational institutions after a deadline to be fixed by the education ministry, according to the order.

Ordering increased screening at all ports, the authorities also banned the disembarkation of ship crews.

Covid-19 claimed seven more lives and infected 3,447 across Bangladesh in the 24 hours ending Saturday morning.

On the day, the test positivity rate was 14.35 per cent.

With the latest statistics, the total Covid death toll in Bangladesh has hit 28,136 and cases have reached 16,12,489 since the country reported its first coronavirus infections on March 8, 2020 and the first death from the viral disease on March 18, 2020.

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