Bangladesh eases shutdown amid surge in coronavirus cases

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:51, May 30,2020 | Updated: 00:04, May 31,2020


All offices and public transports reopen today on a limited scale after over two months of nationwide shutdown amid fears of further increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The general holiday imposed for containing the coronavirus pandemic and extended in phases since March 26 ended on May 30. 

The government has, however, extended the restrictions on businesses and public movement for another 15 days.

The educational institutions would remain closed as long as the restrictions are in force, according to a circular issued on Thursday. 

‘All government, semi-government, autonomous and non-government offices would remain open in their respective arrangements on a limited scale. People having risks, illnesses and pregnant women shall refrain from attending offices,’ said the circular of the Cabinet Division. 

The decision came at a time when the number of the daily infections crossed 2,000 and the death toll from the disease registered 610 till Saturday morning.

The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has already cautioned the government about the consequences of relaxing the restrictions on public movement before the number of infections dips to a certain level.

‘It apprehended that the novel coronavirus infections would increase massively in the country, putting pressure on the country’s already inadequate health system if the restrictions on public movement are relaxed without ensuring effective measures to control the spread of the infections,’ said a press release signed by head of the technical committee Mohammad Shahidullah and member secretary Meerjady Sabrina Flora on Thursday.

COVID-19 cases at the outset rose slowly in Bangladesh. The total infections recorded till March 31 was 51 while only five people died of the disease after its detection on March 8. 

Cases spiralled after frequent breaches of social distancing rules and reopening of factories and businesses. Till Saturday morning, 44,608 people were found infected in Bangladesh. 

The government circular said that all concerned will have to strictly maintain the 13-point health guideline issued by the health services division.

‘Public transports, passenger water vessels and trains will operate carrying fixed number of passengers in keeping with the health guideline. All will have to wear masks and follow instructions of the health division,’ it said.

On the rationale behind the decision state minister for public administration  Farhad Hossain said, Bangladesh cannot afford to keep all businesses and offices shuttered for a long period of time.

‘We all have to follow the restrictions to stay safe in the current situation. The authorities would monitor and address the lapses in maintaining health guidelines,’ he told New Age.

The Cabinet Division circular said no one shall leave work stations during the restriction period and people’s movement from one district to another would be strictly monitored by installing check-posts.

It said that people must stay at home to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and no one would be allowed to go out at night from 8:00pm to 6:00am without an emergency. Although the provision is already in force, it is widely violated.

It said the ban on meetings, mass gatherings and functions would remain in force. Devotees would be able to perform prayers at mosques in jamaat and in other religious institutions maintaining health guideline.

The health services division on May 11 issued a 13-point instruction set for the offices under all the ministries.

It asked the public works ministry to make necessary measures to disinfect all office rooms, premises and adjacent roads before the offices reopen. 

It also advised that thermal scanners be set up at the entrance of every ministry and department office and install isolation facility for anyone falling sick at the office.

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