COVID-19: In Bangladesh, It’s Now ‘No Mask, No Service’

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
bd-covid-services1000 People shop at a street market in Dhaka, with many ignoring a government directive to wear masks in public places, Oct. 25, 2020.

Bangladesh’s government on Monday declared “No Mask, No Service,” as COVID-19 infections in the country topped 400,000.

The government instructed all public and private offices to decline banking, health and all other services to any citizen who does not wear a mask, to counter an expected rise in infections during the upcoming winter months.

“The cabinet has decided that no government, non-government, autonomous, semi-autonomous or private entity will provide services to people not wearing masks. This is a decision of the cabinet: no mask, no service,” S. K. Rafiqul Islam, an additional secretary at the cabinet division under the prime minister’s office, told BenarNews.

The order comes into force Tuesday as Monday was a public holiday, Islam said.

On Monday, the South Asian nation reported 1,436 new coronavirus infections and 15 deaths more deaths from the disease, bringing the total number of deaths to 5,818 since March 18, government officials said.

“We have already sent the cabinet decision to all ministries, all districts, all institutions,” he said.

Average daily new COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh have been declining since they peaked in June, based on data provided by the Director General of Health, Ministry of Health.

In October, until Monday, average daily new infections stood at 1,414, down from 1,683 in September, 2,430 in August, 2,973 in July and 3,278 in June, data shows.

“Compared to other countries, we have been able to reduce new coronavirus infections in Bangladesh. But the government expects a second wave of infections, starting in November when winter sets in,” said Islam.

Since last week, the government has taken measures to ensure citizens diligently wear face coverings. Last Monday, it instructed local administrators across the country to penalize those not wearing a mask. It even urged mobile courts to enforce the directive.

Islam said many people flout the rule to wear masks when out in public.

“Every day, the people go to government and private offices for work, to hospitals, agencies in charge of providing electricity, gas and water services, banks, city corporations, courts, police stations, railway and bus stations,” Islam said.

“Many of these service seekers do not wear masks, putting other people at risk. If we can force people to wear masks, coronavirus infections can be checked.”

Fear about coronavirus has evaporated’

The idea of refusing service to those who don’t wear masks came from local administration in many districts, a district administration head told BenarNews.

“The local government division asked district administration heads their opinion on how to prepare for a potential second wave of coronavirus infection in the upcoming winter. The local administration in many districts suggested the ‘no mask, no service’ policy,” Md. Sarwar Morshed Chowdhury, head of the Kishoreganj district administration, told BenarNews.

“This is a good suggestion. If we can apply it strictly at the grassroots level, the policy would help us fight coronavirus in a better way.”

Public and private service providers told BenarNews they think ‘no mask, no service’ is a good decision on the government’s part and that they will happily enforce it.

“From Tuesday, we will not provide people voter identity cards and name-correction services if they do not wear masks,” S.M. Asaduzzaman, a spokesman for the election commission, told BenarNews.

People have become lax as new infections have decreased, Alok Sarker, an employee at a private transport service company, told BenarNews.

“People’s fear about coronavirus has evaporated. A majority of people now think coronavirus has been weakened. So they are moving around without wearing masks,” Sarker said.

“But actually coronavirus infection has not gone nor has the virus weakened. In the coming winter, we may see more infections and deaths. So I support the government directive: ‘no mask, no service.’ This instruction will make the people serious about wearing masks.”

Experts said that dry winter conditions result in higher pollution in Bangladesh, which is the reason infections may rise.

“During winter, we will see less rain and a deterioration in air quality. So, we may see another rise in coronavirus cases in Bangladesh,” Dr. Nazrul Islam, head of the virology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told BenarNews.

“Wearing masks and maintaining physical distance are essential at this time.”


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