Post-Eid Lockdown: Jul 23-Aug 5: Offices, factories to stay shut
All workplaces, including factories and offices, will stay shut during the fortnight-long lockdown starting July 23, as per the latest gazette notification that came on the eve of the three-day Eid vacation.
The eleventh-hour decision from the government, after sitting on the fence over the issue for three whole days in the face of fervent lobbying from the garment sector, has left millions of workers and factory owners in a predicament.
Some industries are exempt, as per the gazette published by the Cabinet Division, and workers of those factories would have to scramble to reach their workstations from their villages after Eid celebrations.
Eid-ul-Azha will be celebrated in Bangladesh on July 21.
The lockdown takes effect at 6:00am on July 23, during which all forms of public transport -- including trains, domestic flights and water routes -- and personal vehicles will be prohibited from the streets and highways. Only vehicles carrying emergency goods are allowed.
The industries exempt from the order are those involved in the production of food items like mills, processing and preserving of animal hides, manufacturing of drugs, supplying oxygen, and producing items for tackling Covid-19.
Only those garment factories or units that make face masks and personal protective equipment can run during the lockdown that ends on August 5, said a senior official of the commerce ministry.
The order does not exempt the export-oriented garment factories, for whom a 17-day production recess can leave them gasping to meet the lead time on work orders.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, questioned this last-minute decision.
"Now, the situation is messy and the workers might face the similar kind of difficulties that they faced last year in the absence of public transports on the road during the lockdown," he said.
Anticipating that the government would give in to the factory owners' request to keep factories open throughout lockdown, tens of thousands of garment workers had put off from going to their villages this Eid.
The latest decision, which has left them with a 17-day leave, means there would be a mad dash today to head to their villages, a development that can fan the flames of coronavirus transmission further.
The industries are also apprehensive about being able to make timely shipments although land, sea and airports will continue to function, Hassan said.
But he is hopeful that the factories might be opened from August 1 if the coronavirus transmission slows down.
The latest round of lockdown is the second time during the pandemic that factories are being closed down; the first time was in March last year.
Even during the previous "strict" lockdown when the army was deployed onto the streets and people were arrested and imprisoned for stepping out of their homes, the factories were kept open.
The new gazette circulated yesterday is an extension of the old order issued on July 13, 2021, which outlined what can and cannot operate during the upcoming lockdown that ends on midnight of August 5.
The order had stated that all shopping malls and markets will be closed. Only kitchen markets and corner shops can stay open from 9 am to 3 pm, two hours less than what it used to be before.
All forms of social gatherings will be prohibited, including religious and political gatherings. No restaurant can provide dine-in service and can only offer takeaways.