Hasina urges Bangladeshis to stay at home, stay united to win coronavirus 'war'

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-03-25 22:52:09 BdST

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pleaded for all citizens to keep faith in the government and follow expert advice instead of panicking to stay safe from the novel coronavirus.

“Tackling the virus is also a war, in which your duty is to stay at home. We will win the war with united efforts,” she said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday.

It was the eve of the Independence Day but Bangladesh had already been close to a complete lockdown with offices and shops shut, and transportations suspended while troops have been deployed to ensure social distancing.

“Please stay at home as much as possible. Don’t go out unless you absolutely must. Muslims should offer prayers at home. People of other religion should also worship at home,” Hasina said.

The prime minister thanked the law enforcement, the armed forces and civil administration for working together to prevent further spread of the virus.

She warned rumourmongers with tough action in the time of the coronavirus.

Hasina remembered Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the four national leaders and the martyrs of the 1971 Liberation War in the beginning of her speech, noting that her government has already limited programmes to celebrate Bangabandhu’s birth centenary.

“The entire world is ravaged by the killer coronavirus pandemic. All nations, poor and rich, developed and developing, small and big, are affected by the virus. Our beloved Bangladesh is not out of the infection either,” she said.

The Independence Day is going to be observed in different circumstances this year considering the public health risk due to the coronavirus, she said, urging all to refrain from organising programmes with gatherings.

The prime minister advised all to follow the health instructions of experts. The returnees from foreign countries must remain in home quarantine and maintain self-isolation for 14 days, she pointed out.

Bangladesh’s economy grew 8.15 percent last fiscal year and it was on course to meet the target set for this year, but experts have warned about the negative impacts of the pandemic on the global economy, Hasina said. “We may also suffer a blow,” she added.

She set out a Tk 50 billion package for workers employed in the export industries to help factory owners cope with the effects of the coronavirus.

The fund can be used only for paying wages and allowances to the workers and other employees.

“Our production and exports can be impacted. Therefore, we took some emergency measures,” said Hasina.

Bangladesh Bank has taken some business-friendly initiatives including not declaring any customer a loan defaulter until June, she said.

“Many people have gone unemployed because of the coronavirus epidemic. We need to stand beside them. Members of the lower income groups will receive assistance in their own villages under the ‘Ghore Fera’ scheme. Homeless and landless people will get free housing, food for six months and cash incentives,” Hasina said.

Bangladesh has also pledged $1.5 million for a fund proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the virus in South Asia, she said.

Saving the people from the coronavirus infection is a matter of maximum priority to the government, Hasina said.

“I know that you are passing your days in panic. Those living abroad are also worried about their loved ones here,” the prime minister said.

“I know how you feel now. But we must tackle the situation with patience and courage. We must be tolerant and sensible,” Hasina urged the nation.

She assured the people of government efforts to fight the virus, saying, “At this moment, we are giving maximum priority to saving the people from the deadly virus.”

She said six hospitals have been prepared in Dhaka for COVID-19 patients and three others were being readied.

Isolation units have been set up for treatment of 14,565 coronavirus patients, including 10,050 in the capital, according to her.

The government is also setting up seven laboratories for coronavirus testing outside Dhaka while eight machines have been bought for the lab in Dhaka, she said.

The prime minister warned traders against price gouging as panic buying put pressure on the market when new coronavirus cases continued to be reported.

“There is no shortage of any commodities in the market. Domestic and overseas supply chains are intact. So, don’t increase public suffering by hiking prices irrationally. We’ve market monitoring everywhere,” she said.