Private and public offices to remain closed next week
Bangladesh yesterday declared a 10-day shut down effective from March 26 to April 4 to battle the spread of the coronavirus.
Both private and public sectors, except emergency services, would come to a temporary halt. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to make a public address on March 25, as the country struggles through an ongoing crisis.
The announcement comes in the wake of three deaths and 33 infections – including six fresh cases from coronavirus infection in the country.
In a bid to maintain social distancing – a key to fight the spread of coronavirus – the government declared a five-day public holiday for all.
With the public holiday for Independence Day and two-day weekends, all the offices will remain closed from March 26 to April 4, announced Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam yesterday while briefing journalists on the 10-point directive at the Bangladesh Secretariat on Dhaka’s Abdul Gani Road.
The decision was made following multiple meetings held yesterday between the prime minister and top government officials, and later with Bangladesh Army Chief of Staff General Aziz Ahmed.
People can purchase essentials from bazaars, grocers, departmental stores, and pharmacies during the period.
In addition, emergency services including hospitals, medical and diagnostic centres, Fire Service and Civil Defence, and police stations would be exempted from the lockdown.
People have been asked not to step out of their houses unless there are emergency needs, such as for food, medicine, or funerals.
Armed forces in aid of the civil power
Armed forces would be deployed Tuesday onwards in all 64 districts, in aid of the civil authorities, to assist district administrations across Bangladesh to ensure social distancing and aid in other necessary measures.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director Lt Col Abdullah Ibn Zayed confirmed the development.
District magistrates can avail necessary support from the army, navy, and air force, depending on the requirements, such as, for treatment of coronavirus infected patients and ensuring quarantine for suspected patients.
The armed forces are also expected to analyze whether returnees from abroad are being negligent during the home quarantine period or not.
Can offices remain open?
If any office wants to continue with their operation, they would have to do so online, as per the government directive.
“If anyone finds it essential to continue their work at office, they can do so only in case of an emergency,” he said.
The cabinet secretary said this would apply to both public and private offices.
All social, political, and religious gatherings have been banned in the country. Particularly, people with flu, fever, or cough have been advised not to visit mosques, said the cabinet secretary.
500 doctors to be ready
The prime minister has already instructed the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) to prepare a list of 500 doctors who could be included as required, in the coronavirus infection management process, in accordance with guidelines.
Limited public transport, financial services
During the holiday period, public transport movement would be limited and people have been advised to avoid this mode of transportation as much as possible.
Those using public transports for emergencies must take necessary precautions to keep themselves safe from coronavirus infections during the time. The driver and their assistants must wear masks and take necessary precautions.
Bangladesh Bank is scheduled to issue instructions to continue banking services on a limited scale based on requirements from clients.
How would low income groups survive?
If a person from a low income group is unable to maintain their regular livelihood due to the coronavirus crisis, they can return to their respective natal villages or towns and stay there under the government's “Ghore Fera” (Returning Home) programs.
Deputy commissioners of the districts would provide help in the process.
The government is expecting to open Bhashan Char – ready to accommodate 100,000 people – if any person from a low income group wants to move there. Deputy commissioners have already received necessary instructions in this regard.
Deputy commissioners have also been asked to provide food and financial assistance to people from low income groups already living in rural areas, if they cannot make a living in this Covid-19 crisis.
The deputy commissioners are expected to coordinate with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief in implementing this.
Are burials safe?
Responding to a question, the cabinet secretary urged people not to panic about burials of people infected with Covid-19 as they are given funerals following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Steps already taken
Bangladesh reported its first coronavirus positive case on March 8 and first death from the infection on March 18.
As the infection was first reported, the government took multiple initiatives to prevent the spread of the virus.
Yesterday's decision is a continuation of those decisions.
The government earlier declared a shutdown of all educational institutions from March 18 till 31.
Additionally, the Higher Secondary Examinations (HSC) scheduled for April 1 has been postponed.
All kinds of political, social, cultural and religious gatherings faced restrictions since March 19 while people with fever, cough, influenza, or other symptoms of Covid-19 infection, family members of coronavirus-infected patients, and those who came in contact with the patients, were advised not to go to mosques and other places of worship.
All shopping complexes and malls were announced to be closed from March 25 across the country.
It also suspended all international flights till March 31. However flights of only four countries – China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UK – were allowed to operate till date.
Additional reporting by Ali Asif Shawon