The 10-day general holidays can be extended in the fight against Covid-19.
Some top government officials, including those at the Ministry of Public Administration, the Ministry of Health and the Cabinet Division say that the situation in Bangladesh is being observed and compared to the regional and international scene every day.
Taking stock of the overall situation and the challenges for implementing social distancing measures and other guidelines, the government will devise a strategy and decide on the general holiday.
Health experts and analysts say millions of people who left Dhaka for the holidays and who are not maintaining social distancing or following guidelines are at risk of infection.
When someone has a coronavirus infection, it takes at least 14 days for the symptoms to appear. By this time, an immune system develops within the body of those who get rid of the disease. If they come back to Dhaka or other cities before this time, millions of people could be at risk. And Dhaka could face a pandemic.
Health sector experts pointed out that the 10-day holiday is not enough.
Several officials – including those of the Ministry of Health, Directorate General of Health Services, Cabinet Division – are also on the same page.
According to them, the holiday brought good results in the fight against coronavirus. No new corona patients were identified on March 28 and 29. Only one person was reported to be newly infected on March 30.
However, some senior health ministry officials, who declined to be named, said, "Whatever the situation, there is no alternative to extending the holiday, even if no one gets infected within April 4. The holiday should be extended as a precaution."
The health sector stakeholders said that those who already left Dhaka for a 10-day general holiday will return to the city before April 4 if the leave is not extended. "The step to maintain social distance will again lose momentum. This will increase the risk of coronavirus infection."
Professor Nazrul Islam, virologist and former vice-chancellor at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said, "The holiday should be extended. It is being said that seven to eight people died of coronavirus here, but we do not have their test results yet. We could get the results by Tuesday. If the results prove correct, it will mean that the situation is not that good."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician and also a member of the national corona prevention committee Dr ABM Abdullah said that during quarantine "coronavirus patients show symptoms after an average of 14 days. But the general holiday was declared for 10 days. So it is urgent to extend the period."
Meanwhile, Health Minister Zahid Maleque in a video conference on Sunday said: "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has constantly been updated about the situation. She will decide on extending the public holiday. If the coronavirus situation takes a turn for the worse, the government will take urgent measures."
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman told The Business Standard on Monday that Sheikh Hasina will hold a meeting with members of the high-level committee on combating coronavirus.
"Through a video conference, she will talk with the divisional and district administrators to take stock of the situation and the challenges for implementing social distancing measures and other guidelines.
"Assessing the situation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could revise strategies including the issue of extending the holidays, if required."
Before the first coronavirus patient was identified in the country on March 8, the government took steps to prevent the disease. Several strong committees were formed. And steps were taken following the observations and recommendations of the committees.
On March 23, the government declared a 10-day shutdown, effective from March 26 to April 4, to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The government also imposed containment measures including social distancing since March 24 across the country.
Bangladesh has so far confirmed five deaths and 49 infections from Covid-19. And 19 people have recovered.