Dhaka, Apr 5 – Public transports have gone off roads and movement of people severely restricted as Bangladesh has enforced a nationwide second phase lockdown for a week from Monday morning as part of its move to contain the rapid spike in coronavirus infection and mortality rates. The main objective of the lockdown is to control unnecessary public movements and gatherings with stronger monitoring by the members of law enforcement agencies and thus contain virus transmission.
It will be the first official lockdown in Bangladesh to tackle the deadly coronavirus. On March 26 last year, the government had declared lockdown under the cover of a general holiday along with a transport shutdown as the country was witnessing the surge in coronavirus transmission.
As the country has been experiencing record-breaking Covid cases for the past few days, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Sunday announced to impose a weeklong countrywide lockdown.
Most offices and factories will remain open during the period, but the employees will work in shifts maintaining health safety rules and government guidelines.
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued an 18-point directive on March 29 to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Restrictions on movement/activities
The Cabinet Division on Sunday issued a gazette notification imposing restrictions on the movement of people and other activities for seven days in a bid to improve the situation and enforce the lockdown.
The gazette will remain effective from 6 am on April 5 to 12 am on April 11.
According to the gazette, all modes of public transport (road, river, rail and domestic flights) will remain suspended during the period.
Emergency services, carrying of goods, production, overseas passengers and returnees will remain out of the purview of the restriction.
The offices, staffers and vehicles of the organisations providing emergency services, including law enforcement, relief distribution, health services, power, water, gas, fire services, port activities, telephone, and postal services will remain out of the purview of the restriction.
All the government offices, non-government, autonomous, private offices and court will be allowed to carry a limited number of employees with their own vehicles to perform emergency duties.
Industries and factories will remain open while the ongoing construction works will continue.
The respective industries must take measures to carry their employees in their own vehicles.
BGMEA and BKMEA have been asked to take necessary steps to provide medical services to workers in industrial areas.
People’s movement will be restricted from 6 pm to 6 am, and no one will be allowed to go outside except for emergency needs (to purchase medicines, daily essentials, to take medical services and burial/ cremation of dead bodies etc).
Hotels and restaurants can operate with takeaway/online services only. No one will be allowed to have food sitting in hotels or restaurants.
All shopping malls and markets will remain closed during this period but online services will be allowed. All shop employees must follow the proper health guidelines.
Daily essential items can be sold and purchased from open spaces from 8 am to 4 pm to maintain health protocols. Local administrations and the authorities concerned will ensure it.
The Armed Forces Division will take necessary steps for establishing field hospitals at suitable places.
District and field administrations will take measures to enforce the directives in a coordinated way. Law enforcement agencies will strengthen patrol and take legal action against those who will violate the directives.
Suspension of public transport
Public transport operation will remain suspended during the lockdown from Monday, Obaidul Quader said on Sunday.
“But the emergency services, including vehicles carrying goods, medicines, fuel, perishable items, newspapers and garment materials will remain out of the purview of the restriction,” said the minister.
Speaking at a virtual programme, Quader also urged people to follow health guidelines and ensure a hundred percent face covering.
The authorities concerned and local administrations will take strict measures in this regard, he said.
“There is no scope to show any negligence as the coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise in the country. So, use masks while going to haat bazaars, ferry, launch ghats and bus stands,” said Quader.
The authorities concerned also decided to suspend domestic flights and passenger train and launch services during the lockdown.
Book Fair to remain open
The ongoing Amar Ekushey Book Fair will remain open from 12 to 5 pm every day amid the countrywide seven-day lockdown enforced by the government to fight the 2nd wave of Covid-19.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs issued a notice in this regard on Sunday.
It also instructed the authorities concerned to maintain the health guidelines strictly.
Earlier, the authorities reduced daily the operational hours of the book fair due to recent surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
Banks to operate on a limited scale
Banks will operate from 10 am to 12:30 pm for general transactions during the lockdown period from April 5 to 11. If necessary, they can remain open up to 2 pm for the execution of other required activities.
Bangladesh Bank issued a circular on Sunday in this regard referring to the Cabinet Division’s directives of April 4.
It also said that during the banking transaction hours, the banks have to ensure different kinds of services including clearing of cheques, withdrawal and deposits of money, money transfer, release of remittance, encashment of different instruments and also the receipt of the payments of bills of different utilities.
The banks can operate one branch where they have more than one within the radius of two kilometres in metropolitan and district headquarters through internal coordination, it said.
The central bank said banks have to continue services like disbursement of loans, incentives, payment of salaries of different industries and also the purchase of export bills, loan sanction and distribution.
They have to keep open branches designated as authorised dealers for facilitating the export-import business.
The banks have to ensure maintaining the health and safety instructions about the coronavirus in discussion with the local administration and other authorities, it said.
They have to ensure the operation of ATM booths to facilitate transactions through card and adequate cash supply in the machines while the evening banking and weekly holiday banking activities will remain closed until further order, says the circular.
Highest-ever daily spike
Bangladesh registered 7,087 fresh Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours until Sunday morning which is the highest number of infections since the pandemic has begun.
Besides, the coronavirus fatalities rose to 9,266 with 53 new deaths during the period. The mortality rate fell to 1.45 on Sunday from Saturday’s 1.46 percent.
The number of daily cases and infection rate dropped below 5 percent earlier this year but then infections continue to rise again last month amid people’s reluctance to maintain health safety rules.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8 last year and confirmed the first death from the virus 10 days later. – UNB