Bangladesh plans to stretch lockdown as Eid exodus stokes fear of third COVID wave  

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-05-13 21:29:28 BdST

The government may extend the ongoing lockdown by one more week to watch the situation as a mass exodus from the cities before Eid-ul-Fitr has stoked fears of another wave of coronavirus infections.

It is also planning to give the police magistracy powers to ensure that all follow mandatory mask rules and pandemic restrictions. 

“We are planning to extend the curbs by another week after watching how people left Dhaka. It will take at least 10 days for them to return,” State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said on Thursday.

“We can’t say what the outbreak situation will be. So, we plan to extend [the lockdown].” 

On the idea to give the police magistracy powers, Farhad argued that the law enforcers cannot force people to wear masks without the powers. 

The government imposed the lockdown on Apr 5 to tackle a second wave of infections during which confirmed cases in daily counts rose past 7,000 with more than 100 deaths.

After over a month of restrictions, the number of new daily cases dropped to 1,290 on Thursday, with 31 deaths, lowest in seven weeks.

The ongoing lockdown, with a ban on inter-district transportation, is set to end on May 16 after several extensions.

But people are travelling home by crammed ferries and goods vehicles for Eid. The perilous journeys, sometimes deadly, will resume after the celebrations.

“The government’s sincere requests and tough measures, experts’ warnings – nothing has worked to stop the exodus,” said Farhad.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday termed “suicidal” the homebound people’s decision to travel from one district to another to spend Eid holidays with their families amidst the lockdown.

People may carry a more infectious coronavirus variant to their family members, he had warned.

The minister said thousands of people are dying in India everyday due to the new coronavirus variant. The variant is causing devastation after it spread to Nepal.

It has been found in Bangladesh as well, he pointed out, warning that Bangladesh may face a terrible situation like that of India and Nepal if the exodus continued.

“The families and villagers across the country can be infected with the new variant in large numbers if the homebound people carry the virus to remote areas before Eid.”