According to the World Health Organization, there were complete or partial lockdowns in at least 82 countries around the world last year
The Covid-19 pandemic, with an alarming spike in cases and a striking mortality rate, still remains a worldwide public health concern.
Amid the escalating number of cases and high transmissibility of the disease, governments have had to resort to imposing lockdowns to minimize exposure and ensure the safety of the public.
However, in low-income and middle-income countries, the lockdowns have both immediate and long term impacts.
Bangladesh is one of the countries that has imposed lockdowns to reduce infection and the mortality rate and has suffered socio-economic losses. At the same time, child marriage, domestic violence, and violence against women have also been on the rise due to the lockdown.
According to the World Health Organization, there were complete or partial lockdowns in at least 82 countries around the world last year.
On March 23, 2020, when Bangladesh had 33 confirmed cases, the Ministry of Public Administration declared a 10-day general holiday from March 26 to prevent the spread of Covid-19, ordering all public and private offices to be closed, with exceptions for emergency services. Earlier from March 17, educational institutions were closed. People had been asked to practice social distancing and stay at home. Public transport was allowed only on a limited scale and the public was advised to avoid them.
This year again, on April 5, 2021, seven-day restrictions in the name of another lockdown were announced by the Bangladeshi government.
The country is set to go into a hard lockdown from Thursday to stem the high rate infections currently plaguing it.
The lockdown came with a number of negative social and economic impacts in Bangladesh, which may be further exacerbated in future.
Informal workers hit hardest
One of the hard-hit sectors was the informal sector during the lockdown. A lot of people became unemployed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has rendered about 3% of the country's labour force jobless and created an estimated 16.38 million “new poor.” Day labourers, numbering about 1.08 million, working in construction, informal services and transport, lost jobs, noted the report, “Impact of Covid-19 on the labour market: Policy proposals for trade union on employment, gender and social security for sustainable recovery” by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Even though garment factories were allowed to continue operating during the country's lockdown, an estimated one million garment workers, or one-quarter of the workforce, were laid off due to declining orders for export.
Many people from low income groups shifted to their villages due to the financial crises they faced.
The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted household and individual earnings in Bangladesh, with around 13% of the total population becoming unemployed, with women in informal employment more likely than men to see their benefits reduced or let go from their jobs.
The Bangladesh economy is losing Tk3,300 crore every day from its service and agriculture sectors during the nationwide shutdown over the coronavirus outbreak. Researchers from Dhaka University’s Institute of Health Economics released the findings after analysing the state of the national economy from March to April 2020 in a study on the impact of the coronavirus on the economy.
The country incurred losses totalling an estimated Tk100,000 crore in March, lead researcher Prof Syed Abdul Hamid has said.
The economic loss is more noticeable in the services sector. Most areas of this sector are under lockdown except for trade in daily staples and emergency services. All modes of communication, including road, rail, waterways, and aviation are closed.
Loss of education
Bangladesh has approximately 200,000 educational institutions across the country with over 40 million students.
These educational institutions have remained shut for around 15 months now.
A 2021 study by World Vision suggested that 55% of children were unhappy about their life at home and 40% of children suffered from malnutrition during this time as their parents’ income had dropped.
Education Watch Report 2020-21, published by Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), found that 58% of students surveyed were not technologically equipped with electronic devices or smart phones to access distance learning services.
Parliamentarian and human rights activist Aroma Dutta MP said both girls and boys were unable to go to school because of the pandemic, but only the girl child was seen as a burden in many families. As such, many girls became victims of child marriage.
Compared to 2019, the child marriage rate rose by 44% in 2020, according to a Manusher Jonno Foundation study.
The report noted that, with schools being closed, girls started doing housework and were being forced into marriage as they were at home.
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Child marriage has always been a huge obstacle to development for countries like Bangladesh, and the virus appeared to have had a negative effect on efforts to combat it.
Apart from school dropouts and child marriages, children have been mostly suffering from mental health issues, as never before in their lives had they been confined to their homes for such a long time.
Gender based violence
Around 30% of women surveyed in Bangladesh said they had been subjected to different forms of violence, including physical torture, mental torture, economic torture and sexual torture, for the first time during the pandemic. The findings have been revealed through research, “Life in the time of coronavirus: A gendered perspective,” by Manusher Jonno Foundation and Brac James P Grant School of Public Health.
Among the women, 11,529 (30%) women said they had never faced any domestic violence before the pandemic.