All offices, banks and markets will reopen along with public transportation
Bangladesh is set to relax most of the ongoing restrictions on public movement and gathering across the country from Wednesday as part of the government’s efforts to phase out the virus curbs.
The Cabinet Division on Sunday issued a circular confirming that the nationwide strict lockdown will not be extended past its current deadline on Tuesday.
Starting from Wednesday, all offices, banks, financial institutions, factories and markets will reopen while strictly maintaining the government-issued health safety protocols.
Public transport services on land, rail, and waterways will resume operations as well.
Earlier on the day, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said the lockdown restrictions would be gradually lifted as part of the government’s efforts to keep a balance between phasing out Covid curbs and stem the spread.
The decision to keep the economic activities going had been taken considering the needs of the low-income people, he said.
Mushtaq Hossain, adviser at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said: “As per the public health guidelines, everything should be shut down till the situation improves as the infection and death tally is still in a dangerous stage. But Bangladesh does not have that ability.
“Perhaps our country will turn into a welfare state one day but that is not the situation right now. The government’s financial limitations have forced it to take the decision.”
He feared that the infections might increase due to the resumption of public transports as well as markets and offices.
Transporting passengers at full capacity
According to the circular, buses, trains, and water vessels can resume transporting passengers at full capacity from Wednesday.
However, in the case of road transport, local administrations – after consulting law enforcement agencies, offices and agencies concerned, as well as transport owners’ and workers’ associations in their jurisdictions – can allow half the number of vehicles to run every day.
The authorities concerned must ensure the maintenance of the government-issued health safety protocols to contain Covid-19 transmission on all mediums of transport, the circular added.
Violation of health safety regulations might lead to legal consequences, and the authorities concerned would have to bear them, it further said.
Contacted, Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association General Secretary Khandaker Enayetullah told Dhaka Tribune: “We just follow the instructions of the government and will do the same this time as well.”
He said Covid transmission would not increase significantly despite public transports running full of passengers. “If flights can operate at full capacity, then why is there a problem with buses?”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Railway authorities announced to operate 38 pairs of intercity trains and 19 pairs of mail and commuter trains from Wednesday.
Only 50% of the tickets will be sold online while the rest from the ticket counters from Monday.
Shops, malls to be open for 10 hours
As per the government order, shops, malls and markets across Bangladesh can conduct business for 10 hours daily.
On the other hand, restaurants and eateries will be allowed to operate dine-in services at half of their capacity from 8am to 10pm.
All types of factories will also be allowed to reopen from Wednesday. Earlier, the government allowed only the export-oriented mills and factories to resume operations from August 1.
The circular emphasized ensuring safety protocols, health guidelines and social distancing rules in public transports.
People will still have to wear masks at all times while going outside and maintain health restrictions, the circular said.
Bangladesh has been under a strict lockdown since July 1 with a pause between July 15 and July 22.
The lockdown was restarted on July 23 to run till August 5, but was later extended till August 10 considering the Covid situation.
July marked the deadliest month for Bangladesh with 6,182 fatalities, and the pandemic is showing no signs of letting up as the country recorded 200-plus deaths on every day in August till now as well.