DGHS chief seeks steps to delay ‘dangerous’ influx of Eid holidaymakers to Dhaka amid virus risks

The government should do whatever necessary to delay the return travel of people who left cities for Eid-ul-Fitr to reduce risks of coronavirus from spreading further, the director general of DGHS has said.  

“The risks will increase if people return in the manner they had gone home in breach of the health rules in lockdown,” Professor Dr ABM Khurshid Alam told reporters during a visit to Dhaka Medical College Hospital on Friday.

“It will be dangerous to allow them to return in this way. So, it will be better if the return journey can be delayed. It can also be considered whether proper arrangements can be made to bring them back.”

The mass exodus from the cities before the Eid has stoked fears of another wave of coronavirus infections, forcing the government to plan to extend the ongoing lockdown by one more week to watch the situation.

The government imposed the lockdown on Apr 5 to tackle a second wave of infections during which confirmed cases in daily counts rose past 7,000 with more than 100 deaths.

After over a month of restrictions, the number of new daily cases dropped to a nine-week low of 848 on Friday. The number deaths in the daily count also dropped to 26, lowest in seven weeks.

The ongoing lockdown, with a ban on inter-district transportation, is set to end on May 16 after several extensions.

But people travelled home by crammed ferries and goods vehicles for Eid. The perilous journeys, sometimes deadly, will resume after the celebrations.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday explained why it is dangerous for the people decision to travel from one district to another to spend Eid holidays with their families, warning that the homebound people may carry a more infectious coronavirus variant to their family members.

The minister said thousands of people are dying in India everyday due to the new coronavirus variant. The variant is causing devastation after it spread to Nepal.

It has been found in Bangladesh as well, he pointed out, warning that the exodus may force Bangladesh into a terrible situation like those of India and Nepal.

EFFORTS TO BRING VACCINE

Bangladesh is also facing a crisis over the lack of coronavirus vaccine doses after launching its mass immunisation drive in early February.  

Dr Alam, the director general at DGHS, told bdnews24.com that the government faces a shortage of 1.8 million AstraZeneca COVID shots to complete second dosing of all the people who have received the first dose.

He said the authorities are now trying to bring the doses from the US and the UK after India halted export to tackle the crisis at home.    

Officials sat with British High Commissioner Robert Dickson to discuss the issue. “The discussion is at the initial stages now,” Alam said.

“We're trying our best. We’ve talked today. We may get the AstraZeneca doses.”