- Bangladesh-India flight operations likely to resume next week
- All factories to remain open amid lockdown
- Govt allows flight operations on domestic routes
- Offices will be allowed to reopen from 11 August after current lockdown is over
- Public transport will resume operation on a limited scale
The government has allowed all types of industrial units to operate and domestic flights to resume amid the "strict" lockdown extended until 10 August keeping the previous restrictions in force.
Earlier, only export-oriented factories were allowed to remain open.
The decisions were disclosed in a circular on Thursday, the day Bangladesh recorded the highest number of fatalities from Covid-19 so far with the country grappling with its worst-ever wave of the outbreak.
With 264 more deaths in the past 24 hours, Thursday was the 12th day in a row the country has seen 200-plus fatalities.
Thursday also saw 12,744 new infections from testing of 46,995 samples.
Meanwhile, the regular flight operations between India and Bangladesh that have remained suspended since March last year are likely to resume next week under an Air Bubble agreement.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) is considering the resumption after reviewing and evaluating the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation in Bangladesh and India. Moreover, the Indian authorities are pursuing the Bangladesh government to open the border, according to Caab.
The government had previously announced that everything except emergency services would remain suspended during the 14-day strict restrictions imposed on 23 July following the Eid-ul-Azha, but eventually gave permission to export-oriented factories to start operation from 1 August in the face of factory owners' demand.
As a massive flow of Dhaka-bound people was created immediately after a circular was issued to that effect on July 30, public transports and launches were allowed to run for 36 hours.
The circular issued on Thursday by the Cabinet Division says the deadline for restrictions imposed considering the coronavirus infection situation has been extended from 12 midnight on 5 August to 12 midnight on 10 August.
Under the two conditions, industries and flight operations on domestic routes will be exempted from the restrictions.
All modes of public transport will remain suspended in continuation of the previous restrictions. Government and private offices will also be closed.
As per the instructions of the Ministry of Education, educational institutions will remain closed till 31 August.
Banks and financial institutions will remain open on a limited scale as per directives from the Bangladesh Bank.
Emergency services will continue.
The maiden coronavirus cases in the country were reported on 8 March last year. In the wake of the second wave of infections, restrictions were put in force in phases from 5 April this year.
The latest phase of nationwide lockdown, first imposed for 14 days until 5 August, has now been extended for another five days, amid a surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19 infections across the country.
After an inter-ministerial meeting on Tuesday, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque announced the government decision to reporters. He said shops, factories and offices would be allowed to reopen from 11 August. Public transports would be allowed to operate on a limited scale once the lockdown is over, he said, adding that the decision would be reviewed after observing the situation for a couple of days.
Covid caseload, death toll
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, adviser, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR) told the Business Standard, "Death toll is rising because of increased infections. The number of fatalities may come down one week after the infection rate starts to fall. So far, there is no indication of a drop in infections as the positivity rate continues to stay around 30%. [I] don't think there will be a decrease in death tolls anytime soon."
He called for building isolation centres for patients with mild symptoms rather than expanding big hospitals.
The country has been witnessing a decline in the current positivity rate over the week with a 27.12% rate recorded in the past 24 hours.
With the latest additions, the death toll from the novel coronavirus in the country now stands at 21,902 and the case tally at 13,22,654.
Meanwhile, with the number of infections rising every day, hospitals in the capital are struggling to admit patients. Most hospitals are facing a crisis of beds in both the general and intensive care units (ICU).
According to the Department of Health, four of the 18 government hospitals dedicated for treating Covid-19 patients had 221 more patients than beds. No ICU beds were vacant in 9 major hospitals including Kurmitola General Hospital, Mugda Medical College and Hospital and Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.
Among the latest day's victims, 124 were women and 140 were men.
Moreover, the highest number of 87 deaths was in the Dhaka division followed by 56 in Chattogram, 35 in Khulna, 23 in Sylhet, 19 in Rajshahi, 18 in Rangpur, 16 in Barishal, and 10 in the Mymensingh division.
On the fourteenth day of the ongoing lockdown on Thursday, all types of vehicles except public transport were seen plying the roads.
Due to increased numbers of vehicles on streets, long tailbacks were created at various intersections in the capital.
Large number of private cars, microbuses, CNG-run auto rickshaws, rickshaws and vans were seen running in the Farmgate, Karwan Bazar, Shahbagh, Banglamotor, Moghbazar areas.
During a stay at Moghbazar bus stop for around one hour from 2 pm on Thursday, this correspondent saw a lot of personal cars plying the road. Motorbike riders were calling passengers to share rides. Police personnel were seen next to them but were not stopping any one.
Personal vehicles were running smoothly though areas where police check posts had remained alert to enforce lockdown strictly in the previous few days.
Mentioning that the government has allowed factories to reopen but public transports remain suspended, a private-sector employee named Md Shekhar told The Business Standard that they have to undergo tremendous sufferings on the road and yet it costs them four times the usual costs to go to the office now.
One Md Aminul hired a rickshaw to go to Gabtoli from Banglamotor at 10 in the morning. He said, "I am now paying Tk250, but it would cost me Tk15, if bus services remained open."
A large number of people were seen indifferent towards following hygiene rules in different parts of the capital including roads and markets.
Even though strict lockdown has remained in force, it did not have any effect on the movement of the people on Thursday. Defying the risk of infection, common people were coming out of their homes on various pretexts.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) arrested 385 people on the day for breaching government directives to ensure strict restrictions. At that time, 126 individuals and organisations were fined Tk2,44,850 by mobile courts.
Besides, the traffic department filed cases against the owners of 538 vehicles and fined them Tk12,25,500.
Bangladesh-India flight operations
India has extended its international flight suspension till 30 September this year. Amid this situation, flight operation with the neighbouring country is being considered to resume on 11 August under the Air Bubble agreement, said a senior executive of foreign ministry.
However, travellers will have to maintain health instructions for travelling, the official added.
Patients with no more than three attendants, students, specialists and technicians engaged in government-approved projects including "E" category visa holders will be allowed to travel.
Others also can travel after taking permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the government decision.
All passengers will have to obtain Covid-19 negative test reports. The test will be done within 72 hours prior to the departure time.
All passengers must complete full doses of vaccination, which may be relaxed for patients only on valid reasons.
Passengers coming to Bangladesh will have to complete a 14-day strict home quarantine.
However, if any Covid-19 symptoms are detected or observed on arrival (except for patients), passengers will be sent to government-authorised hospitals for further checkups or depending on the nature or intensity of the symptoms will be sent for isolation at government-nominated hotels at their own expense.
Passengers travelling under special permission without completing their Covid-19 vaccination doses will have to complete a mandatory 14-day institutional quarantine at government-nominated hotels at passengers' own expenses.