Bangladesh leaving lockdown as offices, public transports to reopen from May 31

  • Shahidul Islam, Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-05-27 23:37:53 BdST

The government is phasing Bangladesh out of lockdown by reopening offices and resuming public transport services on a limited scale from May 31 until Jun 15 amid an escalation of coronavirus cases.

Offices and other workplaces will be allowed to operate in this period while public transit system will run in a reduced capacity subject to their compliance with several health and hygiene directives, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said on Wednesday.

"The shutdown won't be extended. Economic activities will resume on a limited scale. At the same time, people must follow all the health guidance to ensure own 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 disease and pregnant women will not be allowed into the offices.

“The decision to resume public transport services with a limited number of passengers was added by the prime minister after she gave the green light to reopening of offices from May 31 to Jun 15,” State Minister Farhad said on Wednesday night.

“Vehicles can move all over the country since many people do not have private cars and need to travel,” he added.

The effectiveness of the measures designed to contain the spread of coronavirus in this timescale would be assessed, and the next move decided accordingly, State Minister Farhad added.

Claiming that 95 percent of the people who were going outdoors had been using masks, he said, “The other five percent need to be made to use them as well.”

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.

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

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.

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 the death 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 be continued 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 restarting the economy. "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.