Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said the government-declared holiday to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 might be extended till April 9.
"We've announced a 10-day holiday, but this might be extended for 14 days. We might extend it till April 9 with some relaxation for some sectors on limited basis," she said.
The Prime Minister said that the essential services will remain open but educational institutions will remain closed while industries and mills can be opened.
But, she said, the movement of people from one place to another should be restricted.
The Prime Minister said this while holding a video conference with the officials of 64 districts to coordinate the ongoing activities to contain coronavirus from her official residence Ganobhaban.
The government on March 23 declared general holidays from March 26 to April 4. The government announced holidays for five days from March 29 to April 2. March 26 was a public holiday on the occasion of Independence Day, while March 27 and 28, and April 3 and 4 are weekends that merged with the five-day holiday.
But kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies, hospitals and all emergency services are out of the purview of the general holidays.
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The Prime Minister said the holiday may be extended because many people went to their villages.
"We've to count the quarantine period in this connection so that there should not be any outbreak of COVID-19," she said.
She also said that with that extension of holidays the communication system has to be open on limited basis.
"We've to think before declaring those relaxed sectors from the purview of the holiday," she said.
The Prime Minister said the government has taken its steps to prevent spreading of COVID-19 from the very beginning and for that reason there has not been many cases in the country.
"We've to look after the matter so that this COVID-19 could not break out in the country in future. We've to continue this (holidays) and take this sufferings for some days more," she said.
In this connection, she said the extension of holidays will be done to ensure that there will be no more death from COVID-19.
Bangladesh has so far confirmed five coronavirus deaths and 49 cases.
"We're taking this decision for the welfare of all," she said.
She, however, said that offices would remain open in limited way. "I'll look in to this matter what we can do regarding this. We'll take steps so that the ways of income of the people remain open," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said it would be inhumane if anyone hikes the price of essential commodities taking the chance of people's sufferings.
"We've to maintain the supply side so that the prices of essentials remain stable and keep within the commoners reach. We've to ensure that," she said.
The Prime Minister also directed not to hold any public programmes marking the upcoming Pahela Boishakh (Bangla New Year).
She said the people usually hold huge celebrations marking Pahela Boishakh. "As we've cancelled all programmes that attracts huge number of people, I'll request all to stop Pahela Boishakh celebration programmes with huge gatherings for the sake of the people's welfare," she said.
In this connection, she suggested to hold the celebration programmes digitally for avoiding public programmes to mark the festival and people can watch those programmes digitally.
She said that it was painful for her to shut Pahela Boishakh programme. "We started this programme defying all odds, and today we've to stop that too, but will have to do for the sake of public interest," she said.
In this connection she said the government is televising class lecturers through Sangsad Television for the sake of students.
Regarding the PPE, the Prime Minister said only the doctors and other related people who are serving the COVID-19 infected patients will use PPE. "There's no need to wear PPE for others," she said.
'Won’t tolerate corruption’
The Prime Minister again asked the officials concerned to prepare a separate list of distressed people up to ward level who are in very bad situation due to the government declared holidays and usually do not get any government assistance from the social safety net programmes.
In this connection, she mentioned the jobless working class people like day-labourers, rickshaw and van pullers, and disabled people to ensure their livelihood at this crisis moment.
"But let me tell you one thing, there must not be any type of corruption and irregularities in this programme," she said.
She asked the concerned officials to ensure that all distressed people get the government assistance.
"None will be spared for corruption and irregularities ... we won’t tolerate people taking advantage of the bad times to get rich. I’m warning you in advance," she said.
She said that if any allegation comes against anyone, whoever that person is, she will not spare that person. “So everyone should remain cautious," she said.
She also said that currently there is no scarcity of food in the country as it has enough stock.
Food security, agricultural production stressed
The Prime Minister apprehended that due to the COVID-19 attack there might be a serious economic meltdown.
"To face that recession we have to start our planning from now. The whole world is now stagnant as well as the economic activities. We’ve to look after our economic activities," she said.
In this connection, she mentioned the food security as the most important matter right now.
"We’ve to maintain our food production and we’ve to look after that. Please don’t leave single inch of land fallow and single wetland without farming fish," she said.
She also said the government would provide all essential assistance. During the time, the Prime Minister asked the Agricultural Minister to ensure all kinds of agriculture materials including seeds, fertilisers and other essentials for the farmers.
'Don’t panic over coronavirus, follow instructions’
The Prime Minister asked all concerned, including public representatives and officials of the administration, police and health department, to work in a coordinated manner to protect the people from coronavirus.
She said that everyone will have to take responsibilities to check infections as well as protect public health.
In her speech, the Prime Minister urged the countrymen not to panic over coronavirus and said the government successfully faced disasters many times in the past.
She mentioned that the government would also be able to tackle the coronavirus situation successfully and renewed her call for strictly following health instructions of the government to this end.
Putting emphasis on proper diagnosis, Sheikh Hasina requested everyone not to endanger themselves and others nearby by hiding the symptoms.
At the same time, she directed the authorities concerned to take legal actions against those who are trying to spread rumour regarding coronavirus using the digital technology from home and abroad.
In this context, she urged the people not to pay attention to any kind of rumour at this crisis moment.
The Prime Minister asked LGRD Minister Md Tajul Islam and Dhaka North City Corporation mayor-elect Atiqul Islam, who were present during the video conference, to take immediate measurers for tackling mosquito which might pose another problem in the coming days.
Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzak, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, Minister for Local Government Division Tajul Islam, State Minister for Relief and Disaster Management Dr Enamur Rahman, and DNCC mayor-elect Atiqul Islam joined the video conference from the Cabinet Division.
Besides, public representatives, divisional commissioners, DIGs of Police, officials of district administration, police supers and civil surgeons of 64 districts also joined the video conference.
Later, the Prime Minister exchanged views with the officials and gave necessary directives.