Bangladesh decides against extending shutdown, offices to reopen May 31

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2020-05-27 18:19:40 BdST


The government has decided not to extend the ongoing shutdown over the coronavirus outbreak, allowing offices to reopen on May 31.

Offices and other workplaces will be allowed to operate on a limited scale until Jun 15, subject to their compliance with several health and hygiene directives, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said on Wednesday.

"The lockdown won't be extended. Economic activities will resume on a limited scale. At the same time, people must follow all the health directives to ensure their safety," he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the decisions and an official order will be issued on Thursday, the state minister said.

“We are not opening everything, but on a limited scale,” he added. 

The elderly, those suffering from any disease and pregnant women will not be allowed into the offices.

The lockdown described as a general holiday by the government along with a transport shutdown started on Mar 26 after the first COVID-19 cases and deaths were reported in the country. It is now ending after 66 days.

The COVID-19 caseload topped 38,000 and thedeath toll neared 550 on Wednesday.

The government allowed the readymade garment factories to reopen and eased some other restrictions by the end of April when the number of patients and deaths began to increase.

Public health experts suggested strict lockdown measures for some more days to slow the outbreak.

But some economists advised limited and gradual reopening as the lockdown caused huge job and income losses, prompting the government to announce over Tk 1 trillion stimulus packages to cushion the economy.

In her address to the nation on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr three days ago, Hasina had also hinted at reopening. "Life cannot remain at a standstill. We may have to live with the coronavirus at least until a vaccine is developed. But the economy must be restarted for the sake of our livelihoods,” she said.

The public transport system and educational institutions, however, will remain closed as the government has not made a decision about them.

“Online or virtual classes will continue,” the state minister said.

Private cars and other vehicles can be used for travelling to and from offices or workplaces as long as the commuters follow health safety rules.

Air travel will also be allowed, but with some restrictions, Farhad said.

Curbs on public movement will remain at place, the state minister added.

No one will be allowed outdoors from 8pm to 6am and shops can remain open between 10am and 4pm.  

Travel between districts will be strictly controlled. The district administrations will implement the rules with the help of law enforcement.

The bar on rallies, public gatherings and programmes will stay.

But worshippers can offer prayers at mosques, temples and churches by following the health safety rules.