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Dhaka Tribune

Inadequate data makes zone mapping difficult

About 25-30% of all examined areas qualify as red zones; Dhaka mayors waiting for specific list

Update : 16 Jun 2020, 10:41 PM

Due to inadequate data on Covid-19 patients, the government has been struggling to split areas into smaller zones for strict lockdown.

The committee concerned with sifting through the data to segregate zones has found that detailed addresses for a number of patients are missing ,and there are no addresses at all for many others. They have mobile numbers for patients, and the DGHS is trying to contact them to gather data, many phones are found turned off.

Furthermore, the committee is also struggling to mark out zones based on population, as government agencies do not have specific data on the population of localities or neighbourhoods. Most sample collectors simply write down the mobile number and area of residence of  suspected Covid-19 patients, instead of taking detailed addresses.

Asked about the matter, IEDCR Director Meerjady Sabrina Flora agreed that it was a major challenge to the zone mapping process.

“It is true that we don’t have detailed information on the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 so far,” said Dr Flora, who is also member-secretary of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (NTAC).

The IEDCR director added that the authorities were now asking sample collectors to record the full addresses of suspected Covid-19 patients and are also trying to use technology to gather the necessary data.

However, she failed to say how long it might take to finish mapping specific zones for lockdowns.

Access to Information (a2i), which is assisting with mapping the zones, has asked the authorities to see if the addresses can be figured out from contact numbers provided in sample collection forms, with the support of mobile phone companies.

The government may end up depending on data collected for other reasons and upon local councillors, to calculate the populations of localities and neighbourhoods. Without accurate data, the technical group is currently working on the basis of assumptions.

There are 25,367 positive cases in Dhaka. However, when the data was segregated into areas, it only accounted for 14,235 cases. This means there are either major discrepancies in the data or the government does not even have the names of many patients.

Dr Jahirul Karim, member secretary of the Central Technical Group on the zoning system for Covid-19, said: “This is the reality of data segregation. We are now depending on A2i for detailed addresses.”

25%-30% of all areas may be put in lockdown

The Central Technical Group on Zoning System for Covid-19 has found that 25 to 30% of all examined areas may qualify as red zones.

Dr Mohammad Jahirul Karim said: “While examining most affected areas in the country, we have found that some 25 to 30% of areas qualify as red zones.”

For the first level of implementation, the Central Technical Group is taking Dhaka and Chittagong city, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Narsingdi under consideration.

“We have not yet published any lists as they are not prepared yet,” he added, dismissing media reports that claimed the list of red zones had been finalized.

He said the list published in the media only lists the broad areas, and it would be difficult to lockdown the full areas while still allowing the economy to function.

“People are panicking and are confused because of the list being published before it was finalized” he continued.

“It’s a complex procedure. The list keeps updating each day as its main focus is to identify the number of confirmed cases in an area for the last 14 preceding days,” said Dr Jahirul, also program manager (Lymphatic Filariasis and STH) at DGHS.

 “We will also keep an eye on the areas where the number of infections have doubled or multiplied in the last 14 preceding days,” the DGHS official added.

Bangladesh has so far recorded over 1260 deaths and 94,000 cases of Covid-19.

City corporations cannot lockdown without specific list

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is waiting for a list of specific areas before executing lockdowns.

The DSCC and DNCC claimed the DGHS would provide the list of areas within one or two days. Once the list of specific areas is delivered, the city corporations will take 48 to 72 hours to execute lockdowns, the mayors have said.

DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said it is not possible to lockdown a large area like Uttara or Mirpur, and specific zones need to be mapped within them.

DSCC Mayor, Barrister Sheikh Fazle Nur Taposh, said the government does not want to lock down a large area or a ward, but small areas.

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