Tens of millions of Bangladeshis defied a wave of Covid-19 on Wednesday to join prayers in crowded mosques and outdoor venues, as Muslims slaughter a record number of animals for the Eid al-Adha festival.
The government lifted a strict lockdown for a week to allow millions of people to return to their villages for the second-largest religious holiday in the predominantly Muslim country.
The South Asian nation of 169 million people, two-thirds of whom live in villages, has been hit by a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent weeks that shows little sign of slowing down.
This despite a strict lockdown in place since July 1, shutting down transport, offices and deploying the military to prevent people from returning home except for emergencies and essential supplies.
More than a million Bangladeshis have now been infected and more than 18,000 have died – figures considered a glaring undercount. Much of the push was attributed to the Delta variant first detected in neighboring India.
On Wednesday, the streets of Dhaka took on a festive air, with people in traditional clothes kissing and watching butchers slaughter cows and goats for the three-day celebration.
Iftekhar Hossain, a spokesman for the Ministry of Livestock, told AFP “a record 11.9 million cows, goats, buffaloes and lambs have been prepared for the sacrifice of this Eid.”
He said authorities have launched an app to facilitate animal sales online because they want to reduce crowds at livestock markets to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“A record 387,000 cows and goats have been sold online,” he said.
The sale of Eid al-Adha animals is a $ 10 billion industry and is a major driver of rural Bangladesh’s economy.
This is one of the main reasons the government has lifted the lockdown to allow cattle ranchers to bring their animals to cities.
Mohammad Ali, a farmer, said: “Last year we had to struggle because of the lockdown. This year again, if the lockdown was not lifted, we and our families would starve to death. ”
Ali came to Dhaka with 20 cows from the western border district of Kushtia.
On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of people invaded the Gabtoli cattle market, the capital’s largest, late into the night for last-minute animal purchases.
“It’s a difficult time. But sacrificing an animal during Eid is mandatory. Being a follower of Islam, how can I deny it? That’s why I came to the market to buy a cow, ”Yasser Arafat, 39, banker and buyer, told AFP.
© 2021 AFP