The government on Monday announced the closure of all educational institutions across the country from March 18 till March 31 after detection of three more coronavirus cases that included two children.
The cabinet took the decision at its weekly meeting chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Tejgaon office as students at various universities began boycotting classes and examinations while attendance at schools in the capital was gradually thinning amid growing fear of the novel coronavirus that has infected eight people so far in the country.
‘All educational institutions from pre-primary level to higher education will remain closed from March 18 to March 31 as a precaution against coronavirus,’ education minister Dipu Moni told reporters at the secretariat after the cabinet meeting.
The latest three COVID-19 patients belong to a family and got infected after coming into contact with one of the returnees who got infected earlier abroad, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Meerjady Sabrina Flora made the disclosure at a regular press briefing at her office in the city.
‘We have detected them after contact tracing one of the previous COVID-19 patients who recently returned home from abroad,’ she said.
Besides, the order for closure of all educational institutions across the country, cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said the cabinet asked all concerned to ensure 14-day mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals.
‘Whoever returning home after their stay abroad must be in quarantine for 14 days. Legal actions would be taken in case of violation,’ he told a press briefing at the secretariat after the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Tejgaon office.
He said that the cabinet also directed the people not to go to public places, including mosques if they had fever, coughing and sneezing.
Bangladesh on March 8 announced that three people were found infected with COVID-19 for the first time ever and they were later released from hospital after recovery.
On March 14, two more people — one who returned from Italy and one from Germany — were identified with the COVID-19.
For the first time, children have been infected with coronavirus in the country, Meerjady said that among the three new patients, one is an adult woman and the other two are children — one boy and one girl — aged below six.
‘Their health conditions are now stable,’ he said.
Meerjady said none of the three had travel history abroad. They developed symptoms while in quarantine.
The government called upon the students to stay home during the time to protect themselves from being infected with coronavirus that had already affected 146 countries and killed around 6,500 people after its outbreak in China in mid-December.
The education minister said that all coaching centres would also remain closed during the time from March 18 to March 31 while March 17 is a public holiday on the occasion of the birthday of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Later on the day, the education ministry issued an official order to this effect.
Dipu Moni said that the educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, could adjust it with summer vacation next month if the situation improves by that time.
About the Higher Secondary Certificate examinations scheduled to begin on April 1, she said it was an evolving situation and they would take decision about it when the date comes nearer.
Despite a ban on flights carrying returnees from Europe, a flight of Qatar Airways carrying 304 passengers, including 94 from Italy and Germany, landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 6:48pm, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh chairman Air Vice-Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said.
The government took the decision on humanitarian grounds and the CAAB, therefore, allowed the flight from Doha to land here with 94 passengers from Europe, he told New Age.
The government on Sunday announced the ban on travellers’ entry from European countries except United Kingdom to Bangladesh for two weeks with effect from Monday 12:01am following the coronavirus outbreak across the globe.
All the passengers from Italy and Germany were kept in mandatory quarantine for 14 days at Ashkona Hajj Camp.
The commerce ministry in an order asked all concerned to shut all trade fairs now under way in different districts.
Meanwhile, authorities of different universities also announced suspension of all academic activities and asked students to vacate halls.
Bangladesh Public Service Commission in a statement postponed all examinations between March 18 and March 31.
The Dhaka University announced its closure till March 28, but no decision was taken yet to vacate halls although students started leaving the campus on Monday.
The government decision came after students at different universities and other educational institutions boycotted classes on Sunday.
Different student organisations, general students and their guardians also demanded closure of educational institutions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
New Age correspondent in Dhaka University reported that the university authorities at an emergency meeting chaired by vice-chancellor professor Md Akhtaruzzaman decided to shut all academic activities including classes and examinations for 11 days from March 18 to 28.
The vice-chancellor said that the exam controller would reschedule exam dates while departments under biological science and pharmacy faculty were asked to carry out research so that they could contribute to containing the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Meanwhile, residential students started leaving the dormitories soon after the announcement although the VC did not make it clear whether the halls would be vacated.
A notice issued by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology on the day said that following the government decision all academic activities at the university would remain close till March 31 and asked the residential students to leave halls before 5:00pm on March 18.
New Age correspondent in Rajshahi University reports that the university authorities suspended all academic activities until 31 March and asked the students to vacate the residential halls by 4:00pm on 18 March, said a notice signed by the authorities.
Our correspondent in Jashore reported that the authorities of Jashore University of Science and Technology in an emergency meeting decided to close the university till March 31 and asked students to vacate the halls by 12:00pm on March 18.
New Age correspondent in Islamic University in Kushtia reported that at an emergency meeting the university authorities decided to close all academic activities between March 18 and March 31 while all the residential dormitories would also remain vacant.
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