Put hotspots on ‘total lockdown’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:42 AM, April 07, 2020

Put hotspots on ‘total lockdown’

PM asks officials to cut off the capital, Narayanganj, Gaibandha, Madaripur to slow spread of coronavirus; law enforcers asked to strictly enforce social distancing

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday ordered total lockdown of Dhaka and Narayanganj cities, and Madaripur and Gaibandha districts to fight the spread of coronavirus.

She also asked for lockdown of areas where Covid-19 patients have been found, officials said.

The PM directed all garment factories, except the ones making personal protective equipment, to remain closed until further notice.

Hasina gave the directives during the weekly cabinet meeting held at the Gono Bhaban with just seven ministers.

Twelve people, who tested positive for Covid-19, have died and 123 cases have been confirmed, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

At least 64 of the infected are in Dhaka, 23 in Narayanganj, 11 in Madaripur, and five in Gaibandha.

Since Sunday night, police had been restricting people's entry to and exit from Dhaka. Emergency service providers were outside the purview of the restrictions.

Narayanganj City Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy on Sunday requested the prime minister to lockdown her city or impose a curfew there to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.

Sources said Hasina during yesterday's cabinet meeting was furious at garment factory owners who caused thousands of workers to trudge to Dhaka and then leave, increasing the chances of spreading the virus.

Division among influential owners over the closure of RMG factories and an absence of specific instructions from the government had sent thousands of workers into a dangerous scramble to get back to Dhaka. But when they arrived, many found that the owners had changed their minds.

Hasina asked the cabinet secretary and the principal secretary to sit with the owners and work out a plan, with a timeframe, for reopening the factories taking into account the overall situation, a minister who was at the cabinet meeting told The Daily Star.

At the cabinet meeting, the ministers discussed the ongoing shutdown and that it could extend since the situation was worsening gradually.

Sources said at the meeting said the PM cautioned that outbreak might deteriorated in mid-April and asked all to make all-out preparation to tackle the situation.

On March 23, the government announced closure of all public and private offices from March 26 to April 4 to contain the spread of the virus.

Rail and launch services were suspended on March 24 and public transport were suspended from March 26.

The prime minister on March 31 said her government decided to extend the ongoing nationwide closure until April 9. The closure was extended again to April 14.

UNB reports that Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam at a press briefing after the meeting said, "Law enforcement agencies and the administration have been directed to take measures for stricter implementation of the directives to maintain social distancing."

He said since the coronavirus situation has worsened, it would in no way be possible to keep the situation under control without the wholehearted support of the people.

Sources told The Daily Star that Hasina also asked Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan to take measures so that prisoners who have served a long time could be released.

An official of the home ministry told The Daily Star yesterday that the ministry had prepared a list of over 3,000 inmates. "We will send the list to the law ministry soon to scrutinise legal issues," the official said wishing anonymity.

Hours after the PM's directive to lockdown Dhaka city, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) in a circular asked all shops, kitchen markets, superstores, and business centres that sell essentials to open at 6:00am and close at 7:00pm every day until further notice.

It also asked convenient stores to close by 2:00pm.

It said pharmacies and emergency service providers would be outside the purview of the restrictions.

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