Bangladesh deploys its army as the COVID lockdown begins for a week

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Army soldiers deployed during the closure on Thursday, to patrol alongside civilian forces.

Bangladesh has declared a COVID-19 state of emergency, with the army and police ordered to prevent citizens from leaving their homes except in emergencies or to obtain necessities.

During the closure, which begins on Thursday, army troops will patrol alongside civilian forces.

During the seven-day lockdown, offices and transportation would be closed, except for emergency services, according to a government directive.

During this seven-day period, no one will be able to leave the house unless it is an emergency, according to the warning.

Anyone leaving home without a reason, according to Dhaka’s police commander, will be fined and may face arrest. Shafiqul Islam addressed a press conference, “If we need to file 5,000 cases and arrests a day, we would.”

Army and police soldiers from Bangladesh stand at a traffic intersection checkpoint in Dhaka. [AFP/Munir Uz zaman]
Tanvir Chowdhury of Al Jazeera reported from Dhaka that with the new limits in effect, there isn’t much traffic on the roadways.

“On a typical business day, you’d see a backlog of traffic and you couldn’t even go through it without spending half an hour or more to cross a block,” he added, standing on one of the city’s busiest streets, Airport Road.

“With the exception of kitchen markets, food stores, and pharmaceutical stores, all stores are closed.”

‘Alarming’ spike blamed on Delta variant

The government says that the 168 million-strong South Asian nation is experiencing a “alarming and dangerous” increase in infections, which it attributes to the highly contagious Delta type first discovered in India.

Hospitals are in dire straits, especially in districts bordering India. In some remote communities, infection rates have reached 70%.

Last week’s announcement of the suspension prompted a mass departure of migrant workers from Dhaka, with thousands crammed onto dangerously overcrowded ships.

Bangladesh has reported around 900,000 illnesses and just over 14,500 viral fatalities, but due to underreporting, experts believe the true toll is significantly higher.

According to a recent study by the independent Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, more than two-thirds of new viral infections in Dhaka are of the Delta strain.

After the Delta variant arrived amid weakly imposed limitations, aggravating the situation, the decision was made to execute the tight lockdown.

“We are optimistic that these stringent procedures will be effective. Robed Amin, a spokesperson for the health department, told the AFP news agency that “we must contain the virus at all costs.”

However, Sagar, an 18-year-old Dhaka street vendor, was enraged.

“The government is enforcing the curfew only to murder the poor. We won’t have any employment, and no one will aid us,” he told AFP.

In Dhaka, a Bangladesh army member signals to a child wheeling a cart down a street. [AFP/Munir Uz zaman]
Garment companies that serve Western behemoths like H&M and Walmart are exempt from the ban. The sector is a major exporter, but China and Vietnam are fierce competitors.

The ban should be “enforced aggressively,” according to Touhidul Islam Chowdhury, who operates a modest loan recovery business.

He told AFP, “A lot of people are dying and becoming sick.” “The troops should have gone out a lot sooner.”

The country’s immunization campaign will restart on Thursday, according to health officials.

The first phase came to a halt earlier this year when India ceased exporting AstraZeneca vaccines to focus on its own requirements.

Bangladesh is anticipating the first shipment of 2.5 million Moderna vaccinations from the United States by the end of the week.

According to a Chinese embassy official, Beijing is also delivering around two million doses of Sinopharm vaccine that Dhaka purchased, in addition to the 1.1 million injections that China has previously provided.

Source: Al Jazeera and News Agencies
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