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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: The law is not enough

Where the legal responsibilities lie in the prevention of Covid-19

Update : 14 Jun 2020, 12:00 AM

Since Covid-19 severely hit the country, the Ministry of Health in Bangladesh has provided directions to be followed for its hindrance. A recently published government declaration states that the punishment for non-use of mask and contravention of other health guidelines is either imprisonment not exceeding six months or fine which does not exceed Tk1 lakh or both following the provisions of Section 24(1), 24(2) of The Communicable Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act, 2018. 

It has been further declared that the punishment for obstructing the director general, civil surgeon, or any other authorized person in exercise of their duties is imprisonment not exceeding three months or fine not exceeding Tk50,000 or both as per the provisions of sections 25(1)(a), 25(1)(b) and 25(2) of such act. 

As the declaration of lockdown has been discontinued since June 1, working people are required to travel to workplaces on a limited scale. The same is the case for domestic flights. It is actually imperative to impose punishment for breach of health rules in such a situation, otherwise, people may neglect the guidelines, resulting in the spread of Covid-19 at a much higher rate. 

The most important point here is to determine is the proper implementation of law. Only having relevant laws in the country is not enough, we need to have an image of implementation of provisions of law. Health is the most important factor for citizens of a country -- which must be prioritized over all other phenomena. 

Working individuals in Bangladesh not having private vehicles are compelled to travel by public transport. In this pandemic situation, public transport must be checked by authorities to ensure the maintenance of masks while travelling. 

The legal authorities should come forward to impose punishments for non-use of masks of any of the passengers, which amounts to implementation of relevant provision of law. During the continuation of lockdown circumstances, and also on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, it was visible that many folks simply roamed outside without having any precautions -- no record of punishment is evident till now. 

As a notice of punishment has recently been published by mentioning relevant sections of the abovementioned act, the public should be aware of the fact that they should take all kinds of precautions while going outside, including having masks, hand gloves, hand sanitizers, etc, and also maintaining social distance. 

Over the recent months, the number of infected people in Bangladesh has reached almost 85,000, and the number of recorded deaths over 1,100. Apart from providing punishment, it should be established that each and every person bears legal responsibility to take the steps for the prevention of this communicable disease. It is better to prevent the horrible situation from occurring rather than searching for its cure. 

We cannot depend on the intuition that having a provision of punishment in the relevant act is all we need to protect citizens from Covid-19. The authorities must be strict in maintaining the provision. It is not sufficient to have the strict provisions confined in the form of an act, or articles, columns, and discussions. 

Implementation of strict provision of the law is really necessary and at the same time, people should be educated about the dangerous effects of Covid-19. The government has undoubtedly taken a great initiative having passed The Communicable Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act, 2018. 

We all know that Covid-19 is not the first pandemic in the world and it is not going to be the last one. We all should follow the health guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Health and also by WHO. A safe and healthy environment is all we need after all.

Nazia Amin is a lawyer.

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