Bangladesh seals off districts around Dhaka to stem the coronavirus spread

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-06-22 03:52:35 BdST

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The government has sealed off districts around Dhaka with tighter health safety measures against COVID-19 amid the rising infection rate to prevent the crisis from getting as bad as it was in April.

“Everything will remain shut. People will not be able to move,” Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said on Monday.

“All transports, except for trucks and ambulances, will be barred. Everything but the emergency services will be suspended.”

In a notice on Monday, the Cabinet Division announced the pandemic restrictions for Manikganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur, Madaripur, Rajbari and Gopalganj.

Dhaka can be entered from anywhere in the country through Manikganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj or Gazipur.

Following the announcement of the cabinet decision, authorities cut off rail links and water transport services to seven locked-down districts later in the day.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, too, suspended long-distance bus services from Dhaka to the rest of the country through the districts bordering the capital.

Bangladesh on Monday registered 4,636 new coronavirus cases, the most in a day since Apr 14, raising the total caseload to 851,668.

It was the highest identified case over the past nine weeks. On Apr 14, as many as 5,185 cases were reported in a day amid the second wave of the deadly disease.

On Apr 14, Bangladesh tightened restrictions in what came to be known as the “strictest lockdown” in which people were barred from going outside, except for an emergency, in an effort to contain a massive spike in COVID cases.

The restrictions somewhat eased after the rate of infection dropped a bit in May. But with the spread of the Delta variant, infections and fatalities surged again in June.

The ongoing curbs against the epidemic were extended by a month on Jun 16 and lockdowns were imposed in different districts bordering the country.

Similar COVID-19 curbs are currently in place in Satkhira, Bagerhat’s Mongla, Jashore Municipality, Abhaynagar, Benapole, Sharsha, Kushtia Sadar, Chuadanga’s Damurhuda Upazila, Magura, Rajshahi City Corporation, Natore Municipality and Singra and Bogura Municipality, according to Cabinet Secretary Anwarul Islam.

The measures in the districts surrounding Dhaka will take effect from Tuesday 6 am until the midnight of Jun 30.

The order from the Cabinet Division on Monday stated that all activities, including public transport and human mobility, will remain suspended during the new lockdown starting on Tuesday. The districts will be sealed off, which means no one will be able to get in or out.

However, movement of transports and individuals involved in providing emergency services will be allowed at this time.

“Everything barring the emergency services will remain shut,” Anwarul Islam said.

A decision over imposing such restrictions on Dhaka was not yet discussed, he said.

Trains will pass through the districts without stopping, while passenger vessels will also be barred from docking at the ports there, the Railways Department and BIWTA announced following the cabinet’s decision.

"Trains will not stop in any of the seven districts with railway stations. No passengers will get on and off from there and the trains will pass directly through those areas,” Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan told bdnews24.com.

"If there are any direct trains to any of the locked-down districts, the services on those routes will be stopped.”

The Dhaka-Madaripur, Dhaka-Mirkadim, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, Shimulia (Munshiganj) - Banglabazar (Madaripur), Majhikandi (Shariatpur), Aricha (Manikganj)- Kazirhat, Paturia (Manikganj) - Daulatpur (Rajbari) waterways will all be off-limits to all types of passenger vessels during the lockdown, the BIWTA said in a statement.

Launches leaving from other districts of the country will not be able to lay anchor at Madaripur, Paturia, Daulatdia, Aricha, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Mirkadim docks, it added.

“Launch communication and passenger launches from Dhaka to everywhere else, including the seven said districts, in the country will remain  suspended from 6am on Tuesday until further instruction.” Mizanur Rahman, a deputy director of BIWTA, told bdnews24.com.

Launches travel through 43 routes from Dhaka to the southern parts of the country.

However, vessels carrying goods and providing emergency services will be exempt from the curbs.

Apart from those seven districts, water vessels can travel in smaller internal routes in different areas. Over the last year amid the pandemic, different transports were allowed to run on highways at different times despite strict lockdown measures, Mizanur added.

Although the government directive was not specific about long-haul bus services in the latest order, the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association suspended long-distance bus services from Dhaka to the rest of the country.

The buses will be grounded from Jun 22, the organisation's Secretary General Khandaker Enayet Ullah said.

“Vehicles from other districts pass through the districts surrounding Dhaka. Since these areas will be locked down, long-distance vehicles will also not be operating."

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Munibur Rahman said that he had not received any written instructions to impose any restrictions on traffic in these districts. "However, I have heard that all inter-district routes with Dhaka will be closed."