DHAKA: Bangladesh on Friday reimposed a “stricter” 14-day nationwide shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, amid mounting fear that easing of restrictions ahead of Eid when tens of millions of people returned to their villages may result in a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The government said everyone must stay indoors as offices, courts, garment factories and all other export-oriented industries will remain closed. “The stricter lockdown has been ordered for the next 14 days …unlike the previous restrictions export-oriented factories will come under its purview,” a cabinet division spokesman said on Friday.
Junior minister for public administration Farhad Hossain said: “This lockdown will be stricter than the one imposed last time.” His comments came as army troops and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel joined hands with police in enforcing the shutdown on the streets of the capital Dhaka and other cities and their entry points.
Dhaka streets were largely deserted and commuters were seen walking to their destination on the first day of the 14-day stricter lockdown. The security personnel in uniform have set up makeshift checkpoints to restrict peoples’ movement without emergency needs.
According to the directorate general of health services (DGHS), Bangladesh on Friday reported 166 COVID-19 deaths, the lowest in the 17 days, while 6,364 new infections were recorded. The overall death toll now stands at 18,851 and the total number of COVID-19 cases has gone up to 11,46,564, it said.
DGHS director-general Dr Khurshid Alam said despite the drop in the number of cases and deaths, the health facilities were under increasing pressure and the situation could worsen in the coming weeks. “I am not sure if we will be able to handle the situation,” he said.
In a normal situation, the oxygen demand in hospitals ranges between 70 and 90 tonnes, but it now stands at 200 tonnes, Alam said, adding that the life-saving gas was being imported from India as well. Earlier, several officials earlier said the Eid festival forced the government to reluctantly lift the restrictions on the movement.
The health experts said the lifting of the ban allowed millions to travel to their home, crowding public buses and ferries and warned it could heighten the toll and infection cases in the coming days.