Shutdown likely to stretch till May 16
The government is likely to extend the ongoing shutdown for most public and private offices until May 16.
"We sent a proposal to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard for her consideration... We are hopeful about issuing a gazette notification in this regard by Monday," State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain told The Daily Star yesterday.
As factories begin to reopen, thousands of workers from across the country have been coming to the industrial areas and cities for almost a week. Health experts have questioned the effectiveness of such a shutdown amid the coronavirus outbreak that has shown no sign of declining.
At least 175 detected Covid-19 patients have died in the country, including yesterday's five. The total number of confirmed cases has reached 8,790, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
The health ministry is going to have two important meetings today and tomorrow -- one with mostly factory owners and another with health experts, an official said.
The shutdown that started on March 26 was extended until May 5 earlier. All essential services and vehicles carrying goods are out of its purview.
The government on April 23 while extending the closure till May 5, said factories, including pharmaceuticals and export-oriented manufacturing units, could reopen by ensuring the workers' safety.
Health experts, however, say reopening the factories increases the risk of a wider transmission.
Asked why the government wants to extend the closure further, Farhad Hossain said, "We don't want the spread of coronavirus among a large number of people by relaxing the shutdown… People are getting infected in a growing number in recent days. We think extending the shutdown will help us to contain the spread."
As of yesterday, 2,592 out of 7,602 export-oriented garments and other factories reopened, according to Industrial Police.
This resulted in an influx of workers to the industrial areas in Dhaka and elsewhere. This has been happening although Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Tuesday said no one would be allowed to enter the capital for work.
An inter-ministerial meeting is scheduled to be held at the Health and Family Welfare Ministry today, which is expected to be attended by representatives of home, commerce, labour and employment, and industries ministries, and police.
Representatives of business associations, FBCCI, BGMEA, BKMEA, and BTMA, will also attend the meeting where the issue of reopening factories on a limited scale will be discussed, according to the invitation letter for the meeting.
"It's actually a meeting with the industry people," Habibur Rahman Khan, additional secretary at the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, said.
He said the government allowed limited operation of factories "considering the reality" and the meeting would be held to discuss the impact of the decision and what further measures can be taken to ensure health safety.
Besides, a meeting of the national technical advisory committee formed last month to tackle the outbreak would be held tomorrow, he said.
Health issues would be discussed there, Habibur told The Daily Star yesterday.