The Prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Sunday hinted at further relaxation of the ongoing nationwide shutdown over COVID-19 pandemic to resume economic activities, saying that it was not possible to keep blocked the way of the people’s income for an indefinite period.
In a televised address to the nation on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, she also announced that all the programmes the government launched to help the people in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak would continue until the end of the crisis.
‘I and my government will stay beside you Insha Allah until the crisis is over,’ she said.
Hasina said that most of the countries of the world were already compelled to ease the lockdown over coronavirus because it was not possible to halt the way of income of the people for an indefinite period.
‘It’s not possible in any way for the developing countries like Bangladesh,’ she said.
The government initially declared a general holiday on March 26 for 10 days. Later, that was gradually extended till May 30 as the number of confirmed cases and deaths kept rising in the country.
The government first allowed from April 26 reopening the apparel factories that supply some of the world’s biggest clothing brands.
Since then, about 4,000 of 7,200 factories have resumed production in different industrial belts like Dhaka, Ashulia, Savar, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram as well as various Export Processing Zones on condition of maintaining health codes, said sources at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The government also permitted opening of markets and shopping malls from 10:00am to 4:00pm from May 10 on condition of maintaining health guidelines and social distancing measures.
In her nearly 15-minute speech, Hasina extended Eid greetings to the people and requested all to enjoy the Eid happiness with family staying at their homes amid the pandemic.
She simultaneously urged the well-off people to stand beside the poor neighbours and villagers at this bad time.
Citing the World Health Organisation forecast, the prime minister said that the coronavirus pandemic would not go away soon.
‘But life will not remain at halt, and as long as vaccine against coronavirus will not be discovered we may have to live along with the virus … economic activities will have to be resumed for the sake of life and livelihood,’ she said.
Hasian said that the entire world is now confounded due to coronavirus pandemic which put an extreme blow on the life and livelihoods alongside killing countless people across the globe.
‘We had to close down everything — offices, courts, mills and factories and business organisations — except some emergency services and lakhs of people have become jobless as they lost employment,’ she said.
‘The government has taken all-out measures for these people’, she added.
The government is providing food assistance apart from cash aid, she said, adding that 1,62,867 tonnes of rice and Tk 91,47,72,000 was already allocated.
‘We’ve given an allocation of 80,000 tonne rice for selling at Tk 10 per kilogram and issued additional 50 lakh cards this month for the destitute families through which they can buy this rice,’ she said.
The prime minister said that Tk 1,250 crore was given to 50 lakh families that lost jobs but were not included in any assistance programme, through mobile banking and each of the families received Tk 2,500.
‘More than Tk 17 crore was given to the qaumi madrassah students and teachers in two phases, while Tk 122 crore two lakh and 15 thousand was provided to imams and muazzins of the mosques as financial assistance,’ she said.
Hasina said that special arrangements were also made for the marginalised community of society and these programmes will continue until the situation becomes normal.
To reactivate the country’s economic activities and production system, the government has already announced a set of stimulus packages of Tk 1,01,117 crore which is 3.6 per cent of total GDP, she said.
‘A total of 18 economic sectors including export-oriented industries, small, medium and cottage industries, agriculture, fish farming, poultry and livestock have been brought under these incentive packages,’ she said.
Hasina said that a total of Tk 2,500 crore was allocated to Palli Sanchay Bank, Probsahi Kalyan Bank and Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation to help the youths and expatriates who lost jobs for the pandemic.
She said that bumper production of boro became a blessing for the country in this perilous time. Boro was cultivated on about 48 lakh hectares of land this year and harvesting was almost completed.
She congratulated and extended Eid-ul-Fitr greetings to the farmers and all concerned involved in agriculture for playing an important role in ensuring food security in this critical time.
The prime minister said that the government started procurement of paddy and rice so that the farmers could get fair prices. ‘In the current season, 22.25 lakh tonne food grains, two lakh tonne more than the previous year, will be procured,’ she said.
She mentioned that the government made arrangements for supplying combined harvesters and reapers at subsidised prices and for this Tk 200 crore was allocated.
Besides, Tk 5,000 crore has been allocated for the farmers at only 4 per cent interest to offset the agriculture fallout of the COVID-19, she said.
Hasina said that loan facilities of Tk 5,000 crore against special fund for export-oriented industries have been made effective and those who could not join the work are also getting 60 per cent salary.
‘Payment of salary and allowances from this incentive package has already started,’ she said.
The prime minister said that the government allowed opening of some shops before Eid maintaining health codes and rules.
‘Those who have opened the business organisations and those who are going to shops must keep themselves protected and avoid gathering,’ she advised.
‘Your protection is in your hands … keep in mind that if you stay safe, your family, neighbours and the country will remain protected as well,’ she said.
Mentioning that storms, cyclones and pandemics will come, Hasina said, “We’ll have to go forward by combating those.’
Putting emphasis on united efforts of the people to fight any disaster, Hasina said that if the people remained united it was not a difficult task to overcome any crisis.
‘You’ve proved this again and we’ve been able to face the two-and-a half-month period of the coronavirus pandemic successfully for your cooperation and support,’ she said.
Mentioning that this year’s Eid-ul-Fitr is going to be celebrated in a different perspective as the country has been facing twin blows of COVID-19 pandemic and super cyclone Amphan, Hasina called on the solvent people not to forget the poor neighbours, villagers and the people of their locality.
‘Stand by your poor neighbours with whatever ability you have, and only then the enjoyment of Eid will get its completeness,’ she told the well-off people.
Urging all to share the joy of Eid with the family staying at home in the wake of the pandemic, she said, ‘All of you stay well, sound and safe and enjoy the Eid by staying at home … May the Great Allah bless us.’
The prime minister said that mass gatherings were banned to stop further spread of the virus for which it would not be possible to celebrate this year’s Eid like the normal time.
‘Enquire about the wellbeing of relatives and exchange pleasantries with one another through telephone or virtual media as it won’t be possible to meet physically this year,’ she added.
She said that measures were taken to offer Eid prayers at mosques instead of Eidgahs by maintaining social distancing and the health code.
The prime minister expressed gratitude to frontline warriors against COVID-19, including the physicians, nurses and health workers, for rendering health services to all as well as the law enforcers and local administrations for distributing relief materials and implementing other programmes of the government by risking their lives.
She offered deep shock and sorrow at the deaths of people at home and abroad, including physicians, law enforcers, journalists and bankers, from the COVID-19 and the cyclone Amphan and wished early recovery of the coronavirus infected people mentioning that ‘danger never comes alone.’
Elaborating her government’s measures for ensuring treatment for COVID-19 patients, the premier said that they have already increased the capacity to this end by designating a significant number of private hospitals alongside the public ones and appointing 2,000 physicians and 5,000 nurses.
‘We have directed the hospitals to ensure treatment for all types of patients,’ she added.
The prime minister extended heartiest greetings to all the people at home and elsewhere across the globe marking the largest festival of the Muslims that comes after a holy month of fasting.
‘This is the day the Great Allah fixes to celebrate with jubilation forgetting all the pains and tiredness during the month of fasting.’
Hasina ended her speech by reciting some verses from a legendary song written by Bangladesh’s National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam:
‘O Mor Ramzaner oi Rojar seshe
Elo khushir Eid
tui apnake aj biliye de, shon
Tor shona-dana, balakhana
shob rahe illilah
de jakat, murda muslim er aaj
O Mor Ramzaner oi Rojar seshe
Elo khushir Eid.’
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