Bangladesh eases lockdown measures despite concerns over COVID-19 spread

 by Naim-Ul-Karim
   DHAKA, May 6 (Xinhua) — The Bangladeshi government has gone for a cautious easing of its lockdown measures despite experts’ warnings amid no signs of abatement in COVID-19 infections.
   Defending the government’s  recent move, Bangladesh Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin told Xinhua Wednesday that economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 have already taken a toll on livelihoods of millions of people in the country’s informal sectors.
   “We’ve to contain the COVID-19 and save our economy. We’ve to do both,” said the commerce secretary.
   He said the government’s move was not being hasty in easing business activities, stressing that shops and markets reopening will have to strictly follow hygiene and social distancing.
   “Reopening shops and markets are not mandatory. If they (shop or market owners) want they can open their businesses. We just say you are allowed to open on a limited scale for a certain time of the day.”
   He said the decision was taken in consideration of all internal and external factors in light of the COVID-19 outbreak situation in the South Asian region.
   The commerce secretary made the remarks as the government’s latest decision to reopen shops and markets has drawn mixed reactions from experts and the public.
   The decision of reopening shops and markets from May 10, before the ongoing lockdown due to end on May 16, came as the government seeks to balance between controlling the infectious disease and reviving the country’s hard-hit economy.
   The country’s economy suffered a further blow due to cancellations of export orders by international brands for nearly 982 million pieces of garments, worth a total of 3.18 billion U.S. dollars, impacting on 1,150 factories and about 2.28 million workers.
   The official said the government has  announced various stimulus packages worth around 1 trillion taka (about 11.36 billion U.S. dollars) to support the industries.
   He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the stimulus packages, which is 3.3 percent of the country’s GDP, for all people ranging from farmers, day laborers, rickshaw pullers and small and medium entrepreneurs to big businesses.
   “Therefore, our moves are not with haste.”
   Bangladesh’s Ministry of Commerce issued an order on Tuesday, allowing re-opening of shops and markets in the country from May 10 on a limited scale.
   The decision also came days after thousands of the country’s readymade garment (RMG) factories resumed operations amid fears that a sudden reopening of economic activities could spark a new wave of infections.
   Professor Mohammod Shahidullah, who is leading Bangladesh’s National Technical Advisory committee on the COVID-19, said this could further aggravate the entire COVID-19 situation in the country.
   He said they have urged the government to reconsider its decision of reopening shopping malls and other businesses.
   The virus has spread to 63 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh. The number of confirmed infections totalled 11,719 while fatalities stood at 186.  Enditem