Lockdown likely to be lifted after Eid, public transport and flights to resume
The government is likely to extend the general holidays again until Eid-ul-Fitr with some additional instructions to mitigate the spread of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic in the country.
The National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC), formed to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, has already recommended to the Health Minister Zahid Maleque to extend public holiday as the coronavirus cases and deaths are seeing a steady rise in the curve.
Bangladesh recorded 11 more deaths from Covid-19 cases with 969 people testing positive and in the last 24 hours. With the latest figures, the country's Covid-19 death toll has risen to 250. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday surpassed the 16,000-mark, climbing to 16,660 with the new cases recorded in the last 24 hours.
Farhad Hossain, state minister for Public Administration, yesterday said: "The prime minister will decide on extending the public holiday. We haven’t received any instructions on this yet but hopefully, it will be decided by Thursday."
According to the officials of the ministry, the government is considering two options over the shutdown-- one from May 17 to May 26 and the other is May 17 to 31.
The general holidays however maybe withdrawn after the end of Eid-ul Fitr vacation.
Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina already discussed the matter with government higher ups and some senior leaders from her party in this regard, according to sources in the party, the prime minister is going to extend the public holiday till May 25.
On Sunday while receiving donations for her relief and welfare fund, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the government is trying to reopen some sectors gradually so that the poor can earn their livelihoods. “We’re trying to reopen some (sectors) gradually. We’re taking measures so that people can earn some livelihoods because this is the month of holy Ramadan.”
Bangladesh began taking preventative measures against the spread of Covid-19 by declaring the general holidays since March 26. The shutdown has been extended six times till May 16.
11 more die, 969 more infected in last 24hrs
Prof Nasima Sultana, additional director general (Add DG-administration) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) yesterday reported the country's latest Covid-19 figures on a daily online bulletin from Dhaka.
She reported 11 more deaths from Covid-19 cases and 969 samples have been found positive for the virus in the last 24 hours
Nasima also revealed that 245 Covid-19 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people who have made full recovery to 3,147.
A total of 152 people were kept in isolation in the last 24 hours. 2,361 people are now in isolation and around 1,256 have been released from isolation. A total of 8,634 isolation beds were prepared across the country, the ADG said.
“329 ICU beds and 102 dialysis beds have been prepared, and the government has been trying to increase the number of ICU and dialysis beds also,” Nasima said.
“We have arranged instant quarantine facilities for 30,955 people across the country,” he added.
Dedicated hotlines have received 1,35,018 phone calls in the last 24 hours while a total of 49,28,530 phone calls have been received till now.
On May 8, Covid-19 deaths crossed the 200 mark in Bangladesh, two months after the first three cases were detected.
As of yesterday, the total number of deaths stands at 287,529 and the total Covid-19 infected cases are 4,269,704 in 215 countries/territories including Bangladesh.
Government considering lifting the lockdown after Eid
The government is mulling over the withdrawal of the ongoing general holiday after the Eid-ul Fitr vacation, according to Awami League’s top level sources yesterday
The prime minister is likely going to extend the public holiday till 25 May and then she will instruct for the restoration of normal life if the Covid-19 situation in the country remains stable, according to the sources.
Abdur Rahman, a presidium member of Awami League told Dhaka Tribune that they have to lift this lockdown gradually as some initiatives have already been taken to ease the lockdown.
“I think normal and regular life will be restored after Eid vacation,” he said.
Faruk Khan, another presidium member of Awami League said: “We cannot continue this lockdown forever, it has to end someday.”
He said: “Government imposed the lockdown for three major reasons. First of all, government raised awareness among people on how to maintain the health guidelines properly to protect themselves from Covid-19. Secondly, the government needed some time to gather resources and increase capacity to fight against the coronavirus and thirdly, the government waited for some medicines to arrive.”
“I think everything except public transport will be reopened during the Eid vacation and after the vacation, the government will be able to restart normal life again,” the former minister added.
Seeking anonymity, a minister told this correspondent that they had strictly imposed the lockdown in March when coronavirus was first reported in the country.
“Now we cannot impose a strict lockdown anymore, we have to ease this situation to balance the life and economy,” he added.
Responding to a question the minister also said if the situation worsens in the coming days, people will lock themselves on their own to save their lives.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s press wing said she will announce more details when disbursing cash aid on Thursday morning from her official residence Ganabhaban.
“During that event she will disclose more about the Covid-19 scenario of the country including the extension of general holiday, withdrawing lockdown and Eid preparation,” an official at Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.
Public transport not to resume until Eid
Although government offices, readymade garment factories, shops, and malls are being allowed to open following health guidelines, public transport like bus, train and launch will remain closed until Eid.
Considering the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak, Bangladesh has already ordered a ban on all inter-district transport services during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.
"No one will be allowed to return to their home districts during the Eid holidays. Inter-district transport services will remain suspended during the period," the Cabinet Division announced on May 4.
A senior official at the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges said: "There is no possibility of resuming transport services before Eid."
Shariful Alam, public relations officer at the Ministry of Railways, said: "We did not receive any instruction from the PMO to open the services before Eid. Communication is unlikely to resume now, but Bangladesh Railway is ready to resume the services on a short notice."
Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, secretary at the Ministry of Shipping, also rejected the possibility of resumption of water transport services before Eid.
Flights to resume after Eid
The Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry is planning to resume flights after the Eid holidays.
The ministry has also decided to waive charges, both aeronautical and non-aeronautical, to help airlines with the economic crisis caused by Covid-19.
“We mainly discussed two issues - how to support our airways and overcome the current situation,” State Minister for Civil Aviation Mahbub Ali told Dhaka Tribune after meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) yesterday.
“We are thinking about operating flights after the Eid vacation, but we need to ensure safety and set up disinfecting equipment. Other countries are also setting plans to operate flights while strictly following hygiene and health guidelines,” he added.