Bangladesh to clamp down on defiance of mask mandate

Executive Magistrate Amena Marjan led a mobile court drive to enforce mask rules at Motijheel in Dhaka on Tuesday, Nov 17, 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove
The government has warned that those who fail to comply with the mask mandate will be dealt with harshly by mobile courts amid an uptick in coronavirus cases in Bangladesh.

Mobile courts will penalise people found without any face covering as part of the efforts to ensure compliance with the health directive, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said on Monday.

“The issue of [wearing] masks was raised in the meeting. The commissioners said yesterday [Sunday] that they are handing out fines at large. Several thousand people were fined around the country yesterday.”

“We asked them to continue with this course of action for another week. If fines aren’t enough to motivate [the people to wear masks], we’ve asked them to resort to sterner measures."

Responding to what these measures could amount to, Anwarul continued, “The fines may be raised from Tk 500-1,000 to Tk 5,000.”

Mobile courts will carry masks to hand them out to those who would be penalised for breaking the regulation, Islam said.

Bangladesh imposed a mask mandate masks in July amid the pandemic. But a considerable portion of the general public has continued to disregard the directive even as the death count is soaring in the country.

The mobile courts have been roaming the streets for some time to enforce the directive. 

The cabinet secretary mentioned that Khulna and Chattogram are moving to take ‘strong actions’ to ensure that everyone wears masks. On Sunday, mobile courts were deployed in 37 areas of the capital.

“Even today the prime minister said that people must be made to use masks at any cost. If not, vaccines or any medicine for that matter would not work.”

Anwarul said the health minister had reiterated that the virus was spreading inside Dhaka quickly although the rate of infection has not been as high elsewhere.

“It is because we are able to see the condition of the hospitals while the number of patients is rising. It appears that [the spread] has intensified [in Dhaka]."