Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said the government decided to extend the ongoing nationwide holidays for five more days till April 9 to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus.
"We had earlier announced a 10-day general holiday from March 26 and it'll be extended for five more days till April 9," she said.
The premier made the announcement while exchanging views on the country's coronavirus situation with public representatives and field-level government officials through videoconferencing from the Gono Bhaban.
When the cabinet secretary drew the PM's attention to the extension of holidays till April 9, she said it could be extended till April 9, but it would not be a complete shutdown.
"It can be done on a limited scale, and a scope will have to be created for the movement of some people," she said.
The movement of transport could be limited, she said, adding that the government would review the situation after completion of the 14-day (quarantine period).
Hasina added: "Everything can't be stopped. The essential things will remain in operation. But all the educational institutions such as schools and colleges will remain closed till April 9."
The premier, however, opined for keeping open the industries by taking all precautionary measures. "We've to keep the industries open for producing many [essential] things."
She said the holidays would have to be extended to stem the outbreak of Covid-19 in the villages as many people have already gone to their village homes soon after the announcement of the 10-day general holiday.
"We will have to take the quarantine period into consideration so that this lethal virus can't spread," the PM said.
The government on March 23 had declared a nationwide 10-day holiday from March 26 to April 4 shutting down government and private offices except essential and healthcare facilities over the Covid-19 situation.
All were requested to stay at home during the holidays unless they have to buy essentials such as food and get medical and healthcare services.
Kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies, hospitals and all emergency services remain opened.
The premier warned against any corruption and irregularity in distribution of foods among the destitute people, particularly the day labourers.
"No corruption and irregularity in this regard will be tolerated anymore. We will not spare anyone, whoever he or she might be, involved in doing so to be rich or wealthy capitalising on the bad time of the people."
She asked all to be alert to this end.
The PM also ordered preparing a separate list of the people, such day labourers, rickshaw pullers, transport workers, and tea-stall vendors, who are out of the social safety network programmes to reach essentials to them so that none remains hungry due to the shutdown.
"I am requesting all, including the deputy commissioners [DCs], to work accordingly… It must be ensured that no one remains hungry," she continued.
The premier instructed the authorities concerned to ensure that none is left out of the list. She said food distribution would have to be made in a coordinated way and it must be ensured that no single person can get food again and again.
She also asked the authorities to ensure additional allocation of foods to meet the growing demand. She said there is no scarcity of food in the country as there is enough stock.
Hasina urged all, particularly the affluent people, to join hands with the government to this end.
She also directed all to celebrate the Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla New Year, digitally without creating any mass gatherings, in line with the government's "stay-at-home" guideline.
"But it is a matter of sorrow that we have to stop the celebration this time due to coronavirus situation. We have stopped it considering the welfare of the people."
In this context, the premier said that the government suspended all the programmes of the "Mujib Year" marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the programmes on the occasions of the Independence Day and the historic March 7 because of the Covid-19 situation and observed the programmes in a different way.
She said there was no need to use the personnel protection equipment (PPE) by all except the health workers, nurses and physicians who are entrusted with giving treatment to the people infected by the coronavirus.
She asked the authorities to create awareness about the use of PPE.
The PM asked the public representatives and others concerned to take necessary measures to check the mosquito menace.
Hasina said there is a possibility that the mosquito menace may begin in the summer and the monsoon, and the situation may aggravate further if "dengue adds to corona".
"So, you'll have to take steps from now on to protect the people from the mosquitoes," she said.
In this connection, the premier advised the people to use mosquito nets while sleeping.
Hasina instructed the agriculture minister to take necessary measures to boost agricultural production.
"Many countries of the world are likely to face shortage of food due to the coronavirus pandemic, and at that time we may have to supply foods. So, we've to give attention to this end from now on."
The PM asked all to make sure that no arable land is left out of the cultivation programme.
In reply, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque said they directed the officers and employees concerned not to go home and help continue agricultural production.
Noting that there was no shortage of food in the country, the minister hoped that more Boro crops would be harvested this year than the previous season.
The premier said the world is going to witness an economic recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact may fall on Bangladesh too.
"Hence, from now on we'll have to take measures to face this impact," she said.
About the continuation of production in mills and factories during this period, Hasina said their production could be continued through discussion and maintaining health safety of the workers and employees.
While exchanging views with public representatives and officials of Sylhet district, the PM said the tea workers could continue their work by maintaining (social) distancing among themselves.
She asked all concerned to ensure the supply of essentials to keep their prices under control.
Regarding the law and order, the premier said, "Law enforcers must be made aware to maintain law and order. Special attention should be given so that none can commit crimes taking advantage of this bad time."
The premier thanked the civil and military officials for making their best efforts in fighting the coronavirus, saying, "The situation of Bangladesh is well in comparison to many developed countries due to the efforts of all."
She once again called upon the people not to panic over the coronavirus issue as her government has successfully tackled several disasters in the past.
The PM asked all not to pay heed to any rumours being spread on social media.
Urging all not to spread any rumour, she directed the authorities concerned to take punitive actions against those involved in this crime.