Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged all to follow health guidelines and celebrate Pahela Boishakh at home as the nation enters a strict weeklong lockdown to contain the upsurge in coronavirus cases.
"We have to remember that the lives of the people come first. If [we] survive, we'll be able to rearrange everything," she said while addressing the nation on the eve of Bengali New Year, Pahela Boishakh.
The PM also urged people not to be panicked at the second wave of Covid-19 and assured that her government is always with them. She asked the authorities concerned to take measures to provide necessary assistance to the poor and low-income people.
In her roughly 13-minute speech, Hasina said the government last week imposed some restrictions on the movement of people due to the second wave of coronavirus.
She said the rise in cases compelled the government to take some tough measures following the advice of public health experts.
The PM admitted that strict measures could cause some issues for the livelihoods of many people. She reminded everyone that protecting people's lives was the top priority.
Hasina said the government last year declared general holidays for 62 days. It is yet to open educational institutions.
The PM said the situation was not unique to Bangladesh. "Such steps are being taken wherever the impact of this deadly virus is intensifying."
She said the government alongside saving people's lives is keeping a watch so that country's economy and people's lives and livelihoods do not fall apart.
"With cooperation from all we have taken some steps. As a result, last year we were able to face the coronavirus pandemic successfully."
The PM said the government fixed four key activities last year to face the possible adverse impacts of coronavirus. They were: increasing public expenditure prioritising employment generation; formulating stimulus package for reviving economic activities, keeping labourers and workers in their jobs and keeping competitiveness of entrepreneurs; expanding social safety net programmes to fulfill the basic needs of people living under the poverty line, day labourers, and those engaged non-institutionally; and increasing supply of money to overcome the adverse impact on the economy in a way to make sure that there is no inflation.
"Our activities are continuing based on these four principles. We have already announced 23 stimulus packages of Tk 1,24,053 crore," she added.
Hasina said some 2.5 crore people have been brought under the coverage of various government assistance programmes and steps have been taken for uninterrupted production at mills and factories and increasing agricultural production.
"There's no need to be worried, the government is always beside you. I have taken steps for the poor and lower income people after the second wave hit the country."
The PM said the government allocated Tk 807.65 crore for employment generation in rural areas and more than Tk 672 crore for holy Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. This will benefit 1,24,42,000 lower income families.
5.6M RECEIVED FIRST SHOT
Talking about vaccination against Covid-19, Hasina said more than 56 lakh people have taken the first dose of the vaccine. "Those who've taken the first shot are now taking the second one. Gradually, we will bring everyone under the vaccination programme."
Referring to the comments of health experts, the premier said there is no assurance that one will be fully protected from the virus after receiving the vaccine. "So, after taking the vaccine, we will have to maintain health guidelines too."
Hasina urged everyone to be careful and ensure protection for themselves, their family members and neighbours. "So, gatherings have to be avoided and everyone should wear a mask while going outside. After returning home, one should get cleaned and take vapour from hot water."
She greeted the countrymen on the occasion of Bengali New Year and the beginning of Holy Ramadan.
Hasina also asked all to stay home. "Like the previous year, Bangalees will have to celebrate Pahela Boishakh festival digitally staying at home."
State-owned Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television simultaneously broadcast her address. Private television channels and radio stations also aired the PM's speech.