All public, private and autonomous offices will remain closed for a week from April 14, says a Cabinet Division proposal aimed at curbing the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
However, factories of export-oriented industries, including that of readymade garment, will stay open maintaining the health safety guidelines, the proposal mentions.
Public transport services -- bus, train, launch and regular flights -- and also city bus services that resumed on April 7 amid the ongoing restrictions will remain suspended during the period. Private vehicles will also come under restrictions.
Offices providing emergency services and vehicles used for such services will be out of the purview of the fresh restrictions, it says.
The proposal was sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last night following a high-level meeting on the Covid situation in the country, said Cabinet Division sources.
Upon the PM's approval, the Division would issue a gazette notification in this regard today, they said.
Chaired by Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam, yesterday's meeting was attended by secretaries of the ministries concerned.
Though the fresh restrictions will be imposed for a week, the authorities are thinking of keeping those in force till April 30, the sources said.
The country is going to be put under strict restrictions amid a worsening Covid situation as the ongoing restrictionshave apparently proved less effective in containing the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the government has extended the ongoing restrictions on long-route transport services -- bus, train, launch and regular flights -- till 6:00am on April 14.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has suspended around 500 international flights to and from Dhaka for a week from April 14.
Yesterday, people were seen leaving the capital in rickshaw vans, auto-rickshaws and pick-ups, assuming that the government would extend the ongoing restrictions.
Shopping malls and stores selling essential goods saw a huge rush of buyers.
All these developments came at a time when the country witnessed the highest number of Covid deaths in a day.
Seventy-eight people died from the virus in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday, taking the total number to 9,739. Besides, 5,819 new infections were recorded during the period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
Earlier on April 4, the Cabinet Division issued an 11-point directive with a set of restrictions effective from 6:00am on April 5 to 12:00am on April 11 to contain the spread of Covid. It said violators of the directives would face punishment.
Various offices, mills and factories were exempt from the restrictions and the government allowed resumption of bus services in all 11 cities from April 7.
On April 8, the government announced that shops and malls could be kept open for eight hours from April 9 to April 13 despite concerns from health experts.
People in large numbers were seen coming out on the streets to buy commodities from shops or go to offices and businesses. People began hanging out at tea-stalls in their neighbourhoods. Very few steps were noticed in enforcing the restrictions.
Experts doubted whether the half-hearted enforcement of restrictions would be effective at all.
On Friday, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader and State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said the country would be put under strict restrictions for a week from April 14.
SUSPENSION OF INT'L FLIGHTS
CAAB has suspended international flights for a week from April 14 as it will be very difficult for passengers to reach Dhaka Airport amid the strict restrictions all over the country.
"It will not be possible for air passengers to reach the airport to catch flights," CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told The Daily Star yesterday.
He, however, said there would be no restrictions on chartered flights, cargo flights, air ambulance and special flights.
Textile and garment manufacturers and exporters have urged the government to allow factories to operate during the restrictions to help them offset losses.
The leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), and some top garment manufacturers and exporters made the call at a joint press conference at a city hotel yesterday.
The business leaders also held a meeting with Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi to place their arguments for keeping the export-oriented factories out of the purview of fresh restrictions, sources said.
Talking to this newspaper, infectious diseases specialist Prof Ridwanur Rahman said the government can allow some economic activities if Covid tests and treatment for workers can be ensured.
As there is a high risk of infection at the community level, the workers can get infected even if the factories are closed, he pointed out.
In that case, factories can stay open given that the authorities ensure enough Covid tests as well as treatment for workers, he added.
Last year, the government had kept almost all public and private offices shut and suspended public transport, except for emergency services, from March 26 to May 30 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
However, it had allowed garment factories to operate in the middle of the shutdown.