DGHS proposed a list of guidelines to make cattle markets safer
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) proposed a draft health safety guideline stating that cattle markets that are being set up for Eid-ul-Azha have to keep separate entrance and exit ways for the visitors and traders, to put a bar in the spread of Covid-19.
Officials of the health directorate involved with the formulation of the guideline told Dhaka Tribune that the draft copy has been sent to the concerned ministry and they are awaiting approval.
The draft guideline has two parts – the first part carries directions for cattle market management committees and the second part carries directions for the sellers and buyers.
According to the draft, along with maintaining hygiene etiquettes, several safety measures have to be implemented by the cattle market authorities, which they did not follow previously, thereby resulting in a haphazard situation.
There should be separate gates for entrance and exit to reduce the crowds and mostly physical contact at the gates.
It is a familiar scenario that several family members along with their close ones crowd the market to buy cattle for sacrificing during Eid-ul-Azha. The guideline opted to change this scenario and encourage fewer people to visit the cattle market.
They suggested allowing only two buyers from any group to enter the market.
Wearing masks has been made mandatory and children, the elderly, and people having fever, cough, and cold have been barred from visiting the market.
The market managers also have to ensure enough space between two rows of cattle so that buyers can buy their cattle without congested gatherings.
Cattle market management committees have been asked to set up more hasil counters (where tax for cattle sales is collected) so that the buyers can spend less time paying the tax and there would be fewer crowds at the counters.
The guideline also gave directives to set up temporary isolation centres at every market so that if anybody is suspected, he or she could be kept in isolation at the centre.
The guideline also directs not to gather excess people except those necessary for sacrificing the cattle on Eid day. They also proposed that people should not be allowed to move in groups to collect the Qurbani meat.
In the guideline, everyone has been asked to maintain hygiene rules such as washing hands before and after visiting the cattle market, keeping the places neat and clean at cattle markets, and at home after the sacrifices.
The government usually allows 1,250-1,300 temporary cattle markets across the country. However, the number goes up to over 2,000, including illegal cattle markets, where hundreds of thousands of people gather along with millions of livestock.
Meanwhile, the two city corporations in Dhaka floated tenders separately last week on the setting up of 24 temporary cattle markets.
Of the temporary cattle markets 14 are in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 10 in South City Corporation (DSCC).
Experts fear rise in Covid-19 cases
Public health experts and virologists in the country fear that the decision of holding cattle markets would cause another spike of Covid-19 cases similar to what had been observed during the Eid-ul-Fitr.
In the last 15 days of May, some 1,700 cases were reported but owing to the Eid rush 3,000 cases were reported within 15 days in June.
Not only the cattle markets, but Eid-ul-Azha also has another aspect as well. Many people go to their villages to sacrifice cattle during the Eid which could be another source of new coronavirus infections at the low infection rate areas as well.
The former Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Professor of Pathology, Kamrul Hasan Khan said: “What we anticipated before Eid-ul-Fitr in May, unfortunately, came true due to the free movement of people and we saw a spike in Covid-19 cases.
“This time, not only free movement but people working in close contact will pose a greater threat.”
Former IEDCR Director Prof Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed said it would be difficult to manage people.
“Millions of farmers have been engaged in raising cattle, some 12 million cattle would be brought to the markets from different parts of the country which will be visited by some 20 to 30 million people.
“So, there is a high possibility that the buyers and farmers would carry the virus from the cattle markets to their residences and areas.”
The professor warned: “As we could not control the situation earlier, divisions like Khulna, Rangpur, Rajshahi experienced huge spikes in Covid-19 cases. So, we are entering into a long term infection cycle.”