The government plans to divide Covid-19-hit areas in red, yellow, and green zones, depending on the severity of the infection
The government is planning to divide areas affected by the Covid-19 around Bangladesh into zones on the basis of the severity of the pandemic, in order to prevent the disease from spreading further.
Following an inter-ministerial meeting at the secretariat in Dhaka on Monday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told reporters that there would be three zones—red, yellow and green.
“We met the prime minister the day before yesterday along with our team of experts. There was a detailed discussion there and according to the premier’s decision we sat at a meeting today,” he said.
“We will finalise a plan, which was discussed at today’s meeting. We will now place a precise plan,” he said, adding that all stakeholders would contribute to the plan.
Sources at the meeting said the finalised plan would be announced within two days.
Though the health minister told reporters about three zones, a source present at the meeting with the PM said another zone, orange, might be added in the final plan as it was discussed at the PM's meeting or maybe orange was being referred to as yellow now.
According to international practice, red zones are hotspots with the highest number of cases, orange zones with a limited number of cases in the past and no surge in positive cases recently, while green zones are areas with zero confirmed cases in the last 21 days.
Sources present at the Monday meeting said mostly areas in Dhaka north and south city corporations along with Chittagong, Naryanganj, and Gazipur city corporations were going to be marked as red zones since the infection rate was higher in these four cities.
Mildly affected areas will be marked as yellow and less or no affected areas will be marked as green zones.
Participants at the meeting said: “The red zone will be restricted, like the Covid-19 affected buildings at Tolarbag in Mirpur,”
Responding to a question, a minister said vehicular movements would not be stopped on the main roads as the zone would be marked on a locality basis.
“If Dhaka is declared as a red zone, it doesn’t mean that every traffic movement of this city will be stopped. During the lockdown, public offices will open and so will transport. Therefore, only the affected zone’s employees and workers will not go out of their homes to attend office,” the minister said.
“Transport routes will also remain open but the stoppage will be closed in the red zone areas. For example, if Pallabi area of Mirpur is declared as a red zone, then vehicles will not stop at the Pallabi point but will stop at the next station, Mirpur-10,” he explained.
How will zones be marked?
“The zones will be marked based on the wards in city corporation areas and at upazilas and unions at the district level,” one minister and two mayors who attended the meeting told Dhaka Tribune on condition of anonymity.
State minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, who was at the meeting with the prime minister, told Dhaka Tribune that the zones would be determined on the basis of the number of positive cases.
“If the number of patients is more than 40 in every one lakh population that will be a red zone, between 20 and 39 will be orange, 10-20 will be yellow. If there are not more than five positive or active cases, that will be a green zone,” he said.
Minister Palak, who led a data analytics task force at the national level formed after the pandemic hit the country, said till now 80% areas of the country could be classified as green zones.
“We will hold a meeting with the health ministry and stakeholders on Wednesday and give them suggestions based on our findings. The health ministry will take the final decision,” he said.
Proposals at the meeting
A top level source at the Prime Minister’s official residence said at Saturday’s meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discussed the current situation and future of Covid-19 in Bangladesh with some of her colleagues and experts.
At the meeting a state minister showed the database of the country’s upazilas to the prime minister. The database showed that a maximum number of upazilas were still marked as green zones, as there were no Covid-19 affected patients in them yet.
Sheikh Hasina directed the health ministry and some other ministries to divide the country into different zones.
“Turning the red zones into green zones is the instruction from the prime minister. So we have discussed this issue,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters at the secretariat after the meeting.
Regarding the zones, Dr Kaikaus told Dhaka Tribune that the Health Ministry would mark the three zones across the country and give instructions on the health protocol of each zone.
At the meeting, a city mayor opined that those who went to their village homes during the Eid vacation should be restricted from returning for at least the next 15 days.
It was also proposed that the government should arrange facilities to conduct coronavirus testing inside the suspected patient’s area, so that movement could be reduced, sources said.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: “Hopefully we will get the zonal mark in a few days,”
GCC Mayor Jahangir Alam told Dhaka Tribune: “We suggested a hard lockdown in the red zone so that the outsiders cannot enter that particular place. Ensuring food safety for people with lower income was also discussed at the meeting.”
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, LGRD Minister Tajul Islam, State Minister of Public Administration Farhad Hossain, PMO Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam, DSCC Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, Gazipur City Mayor Jahangir Alam and Narayanganj City Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy were present at the closed-door meeting.
25% secretariat officials to attend office physically
Amid the coronavirus crisis, a maximum of 25% of officials and staff will attend office at the secretariat, while the same number will join office via online, State Minister for the Ministry of Public Administration Farhad Hossain said.
The employees will work on a rotational basis during this time.
In other government offices, the number of employees joining offices will be determined on the basis of needs.
The decision was taken so that workers could properly maintain the health guidelines, the state minister added.
The Cabinet Division will issue a directive soon in this regard.
After 66 days of lockdown, Bangladesh resumed operations of all offices, business and transport on a limited scale on Sunday, even though the spread of Covid-19 in the country shows no sign of slowing down.
According to a government gazette, the limited reopening will continue till June 15, before an evaluation of the situation again.
While talking to Dhaka Tribune on Monday, Farhad Hossain said, “We will use these 15 days on a trial and error basis. After observing the situation for a few days the government will find some option,”
“Employees of non-government and private offices do not need to be in their offices every day, as we are focusing on limited movement,” he also commented.
Harsher steps if guidelines not followed
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the government would take harsher steps if health guidelines were not followed and social distancing was not maintained in public transport during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, reports BSS.
“If people do not follow health guidelines and maintain social distancing, the country’s coronavirus situation will deteriorate…..the government may take harsher decisions again considering the public interest,” he said.
Quader, who is also Awami League General Secretary, sounded the warning while talking to officials of the Bridges Division through videoconferencing from his official residence here.
Until Monday, Bangladesh had recorded a total of 49,534 Covid-19 cases and the deaths of 672 people around the country.
On the other hand, 10,597 people -- 21.39% of all infected -- have so far made full recovery.