Our pandemic-time lockdown didn’t work.
The people were not convinced enough or scared enough to stay indoors to avoid being contaminated with Covid-19. Millions of people went out of the capital city and came into the city. Despite the government’s direction to stay at home, thousands of people went out with no particular work. They just came out to have a walk or chat with friends.
Even the fear of death couldn’t keep us inside our houses.
This was the second wave which further aggravated the coronavirus spread in Bangladesh. The first was when the expatriate Bangladeshis came home and started mingling with the masses. One good aspect that prevented the spread on a large scale was that the markets and offices were closed. That helped a lot.
It’s been about a month and a half now. The shutdown has pushed our economy to a dangerous place, leaving daily wage earners with no work, and foodless. The small businesses — which are the lifelines of our economy — have suffered unquestionably.
However, the way we are now handling the state of affairs is bound to spread the disease. The government has announced the shopping complexes to reopen before Eid from May 10. The policy-makers had to do this because they were pressured by the traders and businessmen. That’s understandable. The traders and businessmen will have to earn to sustain; they also have to pay their workforce, who have been out of work during the shutdown.
It has also been reported that these traders and businessmen are now reluctant to reopen their businesses considering the Covid-19 situation. The number of infected persons is increasing in the country every day as we are running more tests.
The number of deceased is also on the increase. It looks like they are now scared to reopen.
In an ideal situation, this is not the time for reopening the businesses and lifting the social shutdown. But the economy is bleeding. In that backdrop, the government has given an option to reopen.
But on a condition — visitors to the shopping complexes and markets will have to abide by the rules of social distancing. Dhaka Metropolitan Police has said every shopper has to remain within two kilometres of his/her locality while going out for shopping.
But will that work? Who would listen? In a country of 170 million in such a small geography, social distancing is not possible. Then again, we Bengalis do not want social distancing no matter how life-threatening the situation is.
We Bengalis want to celebrate all festivals because Eid is just around the corner. There will always be some people who want to enjoy and spend on luxuries, whether or not there’s a pandemic going on and the economy is in a deep recession.
There will always be some people who will want to buy saris, lungis, and panjabis for distributing as zakat, even if they know providing clothes is not the need of the hour now. The people need food now.
It would be great if the haves of the society could provide food or money instead of saris, lungis, and panjabis to the have-nots. The pleasure of Eid would have a different dimension — it would be like truly helping God’s creation.
I must say, this is not the time for celebrating Eid. You won’t have a heart attack if you don’t celebrate one Eid; you won’t even die if you don’t buy new clothes this Eid. This, first, is the time for saving one’s own self, and then, to help others who are starving on the streets of the cities and villages; it is time to help those who lost their jobs during this recession.
This is the time to show altruistic behaviour to others.
Who is this other? In our country, those who don’t have savings and have to depend on daily wages. Why help this other? Because the haves will never be happy as long as there are have-nots. The economists define altruism as fairness norms, and social psychologists consider empathy to be a key motivator for altruistic behaviour. Now we need both.
Social discrimination is on the rise against the persons who have been infected by Covid-19 or have the symptoms of the virus. The landlords are driving infected people out of their houses; the neighbours are misbehaving with the persons who are suspected to be infected. It is not only the responsibility of the government or the doctors and nurses to save the sick people. We as fellow humans also have a responsibility to save others.
The coronavirus infection is likely to stay for at least two years, and the impact it will leave is still unimaginable. Let’s consider this and focus our energy to save the people, society, and the economy. Let’s all forget about festivity and drive all our worth towards helping others.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.