The government on Tuesday decided to extend the ongoing public holiday till April 9 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina asked cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam to issue necessary instructions in this regard.
In a video conference from her official Ganabhaban residence, the PM addressed some cabinet members and all the divisional and deputy commissioners of the country.
She also said that there would be no outdoor programmes celebrating Pahela Baishakh — the Bengali New Year — on April 14 to avoid mass gatherings in the prevailing situation.
‘We have earlier announced a 10-day general holiday from March 26 [to April 4] and it might be extended till April 9,’ she said.
The holiday will practically be extended till April 11, making it a 17-day shutdown, as the coming weekend falls on April 10 and 11.
Lawmakers and representatives of different local government bodies also joined the video conference alongside field-level government officials from across the country.
The prime minister said that the holiday might be extended to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the rural areas as many people had already gone to their village homes soon after the 10-day public holiday was announced.
‘We will have to take the [14-day] quarantine period into account so that this lethal virus can’t spread,’ she said, adding that the industries would remain outside the purview of the extended holiday.
The government has to relax some sectors on a limited scale during the countrywide shutdown, she added.
‘Scope will have to be created for the movement of some people,’ she said, adding that the movement of transports, therefore, might be allowed partially.
She said that the government would review the situation after the completion of 14 days (quarantine period).
‘Everything can’t be stopped. The essential things will go on,’ the PM said.
The government earlier on March 23 declared a 10-day nationwide holiday from March 26 to April 4 shutting down the government and private offices, except healthcare facilities and emergency services, to fight the spread of the coronavirus that has so far killed five people and infected 49 others in the country.
It asked people to stay at home, banning all social, political and religious gatherings, to ensure social distancing.
The prime minister warned against any sort of corruption and irregularities in distributing foods among the destitute people, particularly the day-labourers.
‘No corruption and irregularity in this regard will be tolerated. We will not spare anyone trying to get rich or wealthy capitalising on the bad time of the people,’ she added.
She has asked all to remain alert in the prevailing situation.
The PM also asked for preparing a separate list of the poor people who are out of the existing social safety network programmes, such as day labourers, rickshaw pullers, transport workers, tea vendors or tea-stall owners to reach essentials to them so that none remained hungry due to the shutdown.
She asked the authorities concerned to ensure that none was left out of the list, adding that the food distribution would have to be made in a coordinated way and it must be ensured that none could repeatedly get food aid.
She also asked the authorities concerned to ensure additional allocation of foods to meet the growing demand.
Sheikh Hasina urged all, particularly the affluent people, to join hands with the government to this end.
The prime minister asked all to digitally celebrate Pahela Baishakh without creating any mass gatherings in line with the government’s ‘stay-at-home’ guideline.
She said that there was no need for all to use personnel protection equipment, or PPE, except for the health workers, nurses and physicians who were entrusted to provide treatment to the people infected with the coronavirus.
She asked the authorities concerned to create awareness of the use of PPE.
Officials of the local administration informed the PM that there was no crisis of PPE at this moment.
She said that she would issue an instruction as to which establishments would remain open and which would not during the extended holiday.
Talking to Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner, the prime minister instructed him to make sure that the restrictions were in place during the entry to and the exit from the Rohingya camps as it would be a disaster if camp inmates were infected with the coronavirus.
She asked agriculture minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque to work for increasing the food production as the virus-hit countries would face food crisis and Bangladesh would need to supply foods to them.
She also asked the local government ministry to take necessary steps to control mosquitoes immediately as it would be tough to face any possible dengue epidemic amid the coronavirus menace.
The prime minister said that she experienced buzzing of mosquitoes while going to bed last night (Monday night).
Information minister Hasan Mahmud, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, local government, rural development and cooperatives minister M Tazul Islam and state minister for disaster management and relief M Enamur Rahman attended the video conference from the Secretariat.
PM’s principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus moderated the conference while cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam along with senior secretaries and secretaries also joined the video conference from the Secretariat.
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