Bangladesh made masks mandatory in pandemic. Not everyone cares

Health protocols have helped many countries around the world fight the coronavirus epidemic

Jul 28, 2020
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Health protocols have helped many countries around the world fight the coronavirus epidemic. But a large swathe of the population in Bangladesh seems reluctant to wear masks, a key gear in the fight against virus transmission.

Many are outdoors with no face covering. Some of them come up with excuses, while some just retort when asked why they do not wear a mask.

As the COVID-19 infection curve showed no sign of flattening in the past four months, the government last week made it mandatory for all to wear masks outdoors. It also asked the police and agencies to implement the order.

"Can we prevent the coronavirus just by wearing a mask ?”

“I feel suffocated while wearing a mask.”

“It’s so irritating when I wear a mask."

These are the common excuses the citizens are using when they head out without a mask.

Members of the law-enforcement agencies have stressed a “humane approach" while creating mass awareness for masks.
Public health experts, on the other hand, urged the authorities to take strong measures to create awareness on the importance of wearing a mask amid surging coronavirus cases. The strict implementation of rules is the key, they believe.

The government imposed a lockdown in March to curb the coronavirus epidemic in Bangladesh. After relaxing the ban on May 31, Bangladesh gradually reopened the economy. The government still urges everyone to follow the health protocols, including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Virus cases are surging by the day with around 3,000 added to the tally over a 24-hour period. Deaths are also on the rise.
 
bdnews24.com reporters have visited parts of the city to find out if people are following the health protocols.

Most of the people in Mirpur 10, 11 and 12 and Kalshi were found without a mask. It was hard to find anyone wearing a mask in the Kalshi Bihari Camp, a densely populated neighbourhood.

“I just got out to the street. We need to go out for different reasons and it's not possible to wear a mask all the time,” said Abdus Salam, a resident of Bihari Camp.

Shopkeepers, restaurant employees and owners of makeshift shops in the neighbourhood were found with no face covering.
Three workers standing close to each other make flatbreads in Jamil Hotel, a restaurant, at Road No. 1 in the camp. None of them wore a mask.

“It’s so hot when we work here. We feel totally scorched. We can’t wear a mask and work. Even if we wear it, it gets wet with sweat,” said Sohel, one of the workers.

“It’s impossible to stay at home in such a heat. I don’t have any work to do, so I come here and hang out. I don’t need a mask here. I have one in my pocket and wear it when I travel far,” said Rahim Sheikh who was seen near Pallabi Mohila Degree College.

In the Muktijoddha Mosque Complex market, some of the people were seen wearing masks but not properly. They pulled it down to their chin.

“I feel suffocated while wearing a mask and also can’t speak properly. People don’t comprehend when I speak from behind a mask. So I pulled it down,” said Saima Akhter, a shopper.
 
A family of four were seen shopping and none of them wore a mask. “What is your problem if we don’t wear a mask,” one of them retorted when asked why they did not wear a mask.

Bus drivers and their aides were seen without masks in Mirpur 11 and 12. “I have a mask, but took it off as it is very hot now,” said Russel, who works for an Osim Paribahan bus on the Gabtali-Demra route.

A different situation was found at the Mirpur Industrial Area branch of Sonali Bank, where the security personnel were refusing to let clients enter without a mask.

“I forgot to bring a mask and they’re not allowing me to enter the bank. “I’ll go home and bring one as I need to draw the bonus,” said a client.

bdnews24.com spoke to Sheuly Begum and Asia Akhter at Khilgaon Trimohoni Ghat.

“I need to go out every day. How do I figure out which place has a coronavirus patient there? Also, you can’t prevent the coronavirus by wearing a mask,” said Asia Akhter, an agro-farm worker.

“Those who live in a congested neighbourhood need masks. Ours is quite spacious and not very dense like the urban areas,” said Sheuly Begum.

Most of the traders and buyers in the sacrificial animal market beside Meradia Bazar in Banasree were found without masks.

Mohammadpur has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases. But hardly any traders, buyers and pedestrians in Town Hall, one of the busiest places in the neighbourhood, were found to wear a mask.

“It is my decision to wear or not to wear a mask. Who are you to ask?” Tasnim Haider, a customer.

“These people will never wear a mask if you just request. They need the police to hit them; they will get infected and then pass the pathogen to others,” said Tarek Anwar, another customer, after Tasnim left.

“I ask the devotees coming to the mosque every day to wear a mask, but they never listen to me. I know they’ll verbally abuse the government, police and the system when they contract the disease. As citizens, we’re not aware at all. The government can never bring down the number of coronavirus infection cases to ‘zero’ even if they try,” said the Imam of a local mosque on the condition of anonymity.
A bdnews24.com reporter visited Karikandi Bazar at Tutas Upazila, Cumilla on Monday from 11 am to 12.30 pm. He found very few of the people wearing masks.

Almost none of the traders, grocers, bankers and customers, including children and the elderly, wore masks.

“Will I be saved from death by wearing a mask? I’ll only live as much longevity as I have. I come here to shop every day; has anything happened to me for not wearing a mask?” said a septuagenarian Abdul Majid.

ROLE OF POLICE

Police are working to create mass awareness through a “humane” approach after the government made it mandatory for all to wear a mask in a bid to prevent the coronavirus epidemic, said Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general of police
“We are using a motivational programme for people to make them wear masks. We don’t use force but request them to wear one,” he said.

Police are monitoring the sacrificial animal markets ahead of Eid-ul-Azha and arranged the sale of masks outside the animal markets, the AIG said.

CREATE MORE PUBLIC AWARENESS

To address the reluctance of people to wear masks amid the epidemic, more public awareness should be raised, said Mushtuq Husain, a public health expert and adviser to the state-run Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.
“We can’t say that the infection rate is going down. It’s fluctuating. We can’t control the infection if people refuse to wear masks,” he said.

He suggested speeding up public awareness programmes through the voluntary organisations.

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