Cabinet issues gazette extending Covid-19 holiday for the fifth time, urging citizens to avoid large congregations for Eid prayers
The government is looking to strictly enforce the ban on travelling within and outside Bangladesh, especially during the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, as it extends the general holiday till May 30 to curtail further Covid-19 infections.
The Cabinet Division issued a gazette notification on Thursday extending the nationwide general holiday for the fifth time, as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in the country.
The holiday includes the Eid-ul-Fitr, Shab-e-Qadar and weekly holidays, the gazette says.
In the gazette, the government reiterated the ban on all forms of travelling via road, air and waterways, excluding vehicles for emergency services or carrying goods.
Inter-district transport services will remain suspended during this period, and people travelling from one upazila to another, or one district to another will be strictly regulated, it further said.
The travel ban will be enforced by the district administrations and police and is particularly aimed at controlling the typical Eid rush of homeward-bound people.
“During the extended period [of general holiday], all kinds of public transport movement will be strictly restricted to contain the transmission of the deadly coronavirus,” said Farhad Hossain, state minister for public administration.
During the holiday, the daily 8pm-6am curfew will still be in place; people can only step out for emergency purposes during the curfew.
All authorities concerned must strictly follow the health and safety guidelines announced by the Health Service Division to tackle Covid-19 crisis, the gazette says.
The suspension of all international and domestic flights has also been extended in line with the extended general holiday, according to a statement by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB).
Previously, the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 response recommended to Health Minister Zahid Maleque to strictly enforce the restriction on public movement and gatherings.
No one is allowed to leave Dhaka to celebrate Eid, as Dhaka is the worst affected by Covid-19 in the country.
The government employees have also been instructed not to leave their respective stations, according to the gazette.
Besides, providers of essential and emergency services – such as power, water, gas, fire, cleaning, telephone and internet services – are out of the scope of the holidays.
Transportation of food, medical equipment, germicides, agricultural goods, fertilizer, industrial goods, and other essential products or daily necessities will be out of the holiday restriction as well.
Kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies and hospitals will remain open.
The government imposed a nationwide general holiday on March 26, aiming to contain the spread of the deadly and highly contagious Covid-19 virus in the country.
Since its first detection on March 8, 18,863 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been found in Bangladesh as of Thursday. Of them, 283 have died, while 3,361 people have made full recovery.
‘Follow the health guidelines’
The gazette stresses on the importance of following the 13-point health guideline by the Health Service Division and says all the authorities concerned, as well as the people of the country, must strictly follow them to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
Social distancing must be followed at shops, markets and shopping malls during Ramadan and ahead of the Eid, the gazette says.
Hand wash and sanitizing facilities must be installed and maintained at the entrances of all shops, malls and markets. Disinfection systems must be set up for the vehicles at the car parks of the shopping malls and markets.
Shops and malls must be closed by 4pm.
“The rules sound good, but implementing them is a challenge in a country like Bangladesh,” said Dr Tarek Hossain, former program coordinator at United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Readymade garments, pharmaceutical and export-oriented industries may be kept open during the lockdown, but health facilities and social distancing must be enforced following the government guideline.
All the ministries, divisions and affiliated offices can be kept open if necessary while ensuring the guideline is followed.