Experts think lifting restrictions by maintaining health guidelines in the least affected areas could be a way to evaluate the present condition there
While some countries are taking measures like reimposing lockdown in phases as part of preparedness to avoid a new flare-up of Covid-19 pandemic and easing restrictions in the least affected areas, Bangladesh has no such plans for assessing the situation.
Experts think lifting restrictions by maintaining health guidelines in the least affected areas could be a way to evaluate the present condition there.
They, however, oppose lifting rules like mandatory mask-wearing in public places, either in the least affected areas or the most affected ones.
Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told Dhaka Tribune: "A few restrictions can be lifted in the least affected areas but there is no alternative to follow the basic health guidelines like wearing mask, frequently washing hands, and keeping a minimum distance in public places."
The authorities can also ease some restrictions by reopening schools and extending shopping hours in the regions, he opined.
Prof Nazrul, also a virologist, however, is not in favour of easing restrictions in any part of the country unless the authorities can ensure that all will follow the basic guidelines.
On the other side, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Additional Director General (Administration) Prof Nasima Sultana told Dhaka Tribune that the government does not have any plan to relax any restrictions in any place in Bangladesh.
"We have no plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions particularly in the least affected places. All the restrictions we imposed to control Covid-19 spread will remain uniform across the country."
Least affected areas
The least affected districts in Bangladesh in terms of fatality rate are -- Panchagarh (0.25%), Rangamati (0.24%), Gaibandha (0.24%), Bhola (0.20%), Netrakona (0.19%), Lalmonirhat (0.19%), Joypurhat (0.17%), Sherpur (0.15%), Khagrachhari (0.10%), and Bandarban (0.07%).
The least affected areas in Bangladesh in terms of infection rate are -- Lalmonirhat (0.28%), Bhola (0.27%), Bandarban (0.26%), Chapainawabganj (0.25%), Netrakona (0.24%), Jhalakathi (0.23%), Khagrachhari (0.22%), Panchagarh (0.22%), Meherpur (0.21%), and Sherpur (0.16%).
Division wise, Mymensingh has the lowest fatality rate as only 2.05% of the total Covid-19 deaths occurred in the division while Dhaka witnessed the highest number of deaths (52.74%).
Mymensingh is also the least affected division as it has recorded only 2.15% of the total Covid-19 cases.
Requesting anonymity, a top public health expert in Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune that restricting public movement from the high affected areas to the least affected regions is not really a feasible option for a country like Bangladesh.
"If the government is able to restrict mobility, they can consider relaxing restrictions in the least affected areas."
As of Monday, a total of 449,760 people tested positive and 6,416 people died of coronavirus in Bangladesh.
England, the country which has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases so far, has proposed a plan of a three-tiered system of local restrictions -- medium, high, and very high.
Different tiers will have different types of restrictions. Medium tier areas will have comparatively relaxed rules than the high tier areas.
In Bangladesh, although most Covid-19 restrictions have been relaxed, educational institutions still remain closed until December 19.
Prof Nazrul thinks educational institutions in the least affected areas can be reopened to assess the situation if the authorities can provide hand washing facilities, make masks mandatory, and ensure social distancing there.
Bangladesh does not impose any restrictions on public movement but has made wearing a mask mandatory.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged all to follow health guidelines and use face masks in public places and gatherings, aiming to prevent the possible second wave of the pandemic in the country.