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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh set to test zone-wise lockdown from Tuesday night

Noakhali beats others to the punch, locks Sadar and Begumganj upazilas down after marking them as Red Zones for 15 days from 6am Tuesday

Update : 09 Jun 2020, 12:16 AM

Bangladesh will begin zone-wise lockdown from Tuesday night on a pilot basis, in line with a plan devised earlier this month that divided areas affected by Covid-19 around the country into three zones, based on the severity of the pandemic.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) on Monday decided to pilot the plan at East Rajabazar, a part of Ward No 27, as it was marked as Red Zone by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

The area will go under complete lockdown from Tuesday midnight.

However, the Noakhali district administration beat others to the punch, by declaring Sadar and Begumganj upazilas Red Zones and putting them under lockdown from 6am Tuesday until June 23, to contain further spread of the novel coronavirus.

In a public notice issued Monday afternoon, Noakhali Deputy Commissioner Tanmoy Das said that no one would be allowed to enter or exit the Red Zones unless an emergency can be proven during the lockdown, reports our correspondent Ranajit Chandra Kuri.

Earlier in the day, a special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shekih Hasina held at the parliament complex discussed the plan.

“The prime minister at the meeting said if the authorities concerned want, they can mark the zones to reduce the Covid-19 pandemic,” a source from the meeting told Dhaka Tribune.

The government on June 1 decided to divide areas under red, yellow, and green zones and put them under lockdown in order to prevent the virus from transmitting further.

Regarding the matter, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam on Monday told reporters that the prime minister had approved the zoning system on Sunday, and authorities can mark the zones and implement it under their own administrative system if they want.

“The prime minister appreciated the ICT-based zoning system. The Ministry of Health and other ministries concerned can implement the system after a discussion. Declaration of Red Zone is good for all because everybody will be cautious of that area,” he said.

He added that it was not a matter of Monday's cabinet meeting as it was discussed by the prime minister on Sunday.

A top level government official, requesting anonymity, said Bangladesh right now was not in a condition to mark the areas under the zoning system.

“Testing has going on for over three months now, and people are getting back to their normal lives. So I think some areas can be marked as red, yellow, and green zones in a pilot basis, but the government may adjust decisions following the result of piloting,” said the official.

Piloting at East Rajabazar

The DNCC has already announced lockdown in the East Rajabazar area, home to around 50,000 people.

“Execution of the zone-wise lockdown plan will begin from Tuesday at East Rajabazar as we got directives from the government,” DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam told Dhaka Tribune on Monday.

Concerned officials have been instructed and people informed about this through various ways including miking, he said.

According to the plan, the government will impose a strict lockdown in Red Zones to control further spread of the novel coronavirus, with the aim to reduce number of patients until it is a Yellow Zone.

Some restrictions will continue to be applicable for Yellow Zones, in order to turn it into a Green Zone with virtually no Covid-19 cases.

This photo of  Rajabazar neighbourhood under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) was taken on Monday, June 8, 2020 | Focus BanglaAccording to the plan, the authorities concerned must ensure some facilities before executing total lockdown in Red Zones. The main issues are —

· Home delivery for necessary items, grocery and medicine as no one will be allowed outside except emergency

· Food for lower income groups as staying home is mandatory

· Transports will not be allowed, so ambulance service is mandatory for all residences

· Available medical facilities, isolation centres, test booths and burial facilities

· Deploying police and magistrate to enforce order and ensure safety

· ATM services, mobile banking must be ensured

“Due to lack of medical facilities in East Rajabazar area, we are working on to transform the Naznin School in the locality into an isolation centre,” Mayor Atiqul said.

How will life look like in a Red Zone?

Faridur Rahman Iran, councillor of Rajabazar area (Ward No 27), said they had taken all the preparations to execute a complete lockdown under the new zoning system following the guidelines.

“In line with the guidelines, no one will go outside of home during the lockdown period,” he said.

“For example, we have arranged enough food to distribute for free among people from the lower income group. Police will be deployed to ensure that people stay at home mandatorily. We will not allow any transport, but a mobile team will be available for medical services.

“People from middle and upper middle income groups will be able to purchase their daily needs like food, vegetables, and medicine from our dedicated mobile shops,” Faridur added.

He also said that they will lock this area down primarily for 14 days, and further action will be taken based on the outcome.

The councillor said: “There are 16,000 voters in East Rajabazar area, but around 50,000 people live here. We have arranged all the facilities for all of these people.”

However, DNCC Mayor Atiqul said such lockdown would be executed on “an experimental basis.”

If this experimental model manages to control spread of coronavirus and bring down number of patients, the government will gradually implement it across the country.

The plan

According to the draft of the plan, the government will initially implement the zonal lockdown strategy at five wards under five different city corporations and a district-level municipality immediately, all of which are severely affected by Covid-19, following the prime minister’s approval.

Subsequently, 10 more districts and 10 more city areas that are severely affected by the pandemic will be added to the process in the second phase one week later.

The entire country is expected to come under the zonal lockdown strategy by mid-June, says the draft plan.

However, the Narayanganj district administration on Sunday designated three areas under the city corporation — Amlapara, Jamtola, and Fatullah’s Rupayan Town — as Red Zones and put them under lockdown.

In Red Zones, almost all forms of transport will be suspended and public transport, including trains and launches, will not be allowed to stop. Goods transport will only be allowed to move at night, and residents will have to rely on delivery from restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and pharmacies as services will be closed to walk-in customers.

Residents will be allowed outside only in case of emergencies, even during the day. Only ATM booths will be open for banking in Red Zones.

Essential services will still be available in rural areas, even in Red Zones.

Any public meeting with more than 30 people will not be allowed. For office duty, working from home will be mandatory for everyone in Red Zones.

Rural agro-processing will remain functional at the district level, but will be closed in urban Red Zones.

Earlier, the Health Services Division’s Additional Secretary Habibur Rahman Khan said that they had already decided to completely lockdown Red Zones — areas with high infections, which means 30 to 40 infections in 100,000 people.

There are 24 areas in Dhaka that have already reported more than 100 cases out of 100,000 residents.

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