Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday assured the countrymen that the government has taken all-out preparations to bring COVID-19 vaccine whenever it will be available.
"The vaccine is about to be invented, research works are going on. We've given advance booking so that we could bring a vaccine at once after its invention. We're taking steps for that purpose. We've taken all-out preparations for that," she said while delivering her winding-up speech in the Parliament.
Responding to criticism from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Jatiya Party leader GM Quader, she said that educational institutions were opened in America and European countries including UK, but later they shut down all as the infection of coronavirus was shooting up alarmingly.
"We've also discussed to open our educational institutions. If opened, students, teachers and guardians would go to the respective institutions. Coronavirus is contagious, a vaccine is yet to be invented. Why should we take the risk? We can't push our people towards death risk. We've to keep that in our mind too," she said.
The government extended the closure of educational institutions until December 19 amid apprehensions that there could be a surge in Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh during the upcoming winter months
Educational institutions were shut in March in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The government also decided not to take any Higher Secondary Certificate and equivalent examinations this year amid the pandemic.
There will be no Primary Education Completion and its equivalent Ebtedayee examinations for 2020 and students will be promoted to the next class through class assessment instead.
Regarding auto promotion, the Prime Minister said that this was also followed in England and other countries.
She mentioned that at present, the educational institutions follow semester system and through this system, the result can be given taking previous semesters result into consideration.
"By giving auto promotion, it's not right that massive damage has been caused to the students' lives," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said that second wave of COVID-19 has already hit Europe and America and this has started to come to our country too.
"We're very much cautious about it from the very beginning," the Prime Minister said.
She said that the last time the government could not complete all preparations as it came suddenly.
"This time we have taken more preparations," she said.
The Prime Minister requested all to wear masks when they go out and drink warm water as a precaution.
Earlier in the day, she reiterated her warning that the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in the country is imminent and asked all to wear masks.
"I request you all to wear masks and follow other safety rules," she said.
About the coronavirus vaccine, she said the government is paying in advance.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque on November 1 said discussions are underway with different countries for procuring vaccines.
Earlier this month, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to get 30 million doses of SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine).
Bangladesh on Thursday recorded 30 more deaths, taking fatalities to 6,305 with a fatality rate of 1.43 percent. With 2,364 new cases, the caseload now stands at to 441,159.
‘Bangabandhu created national unity’
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the government has taken steps to move the economy and for that assistance has been provided to the grassroots level.
Regarding the transformation of government system by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Sheikh Hasina said that he created a national unity.
"His aim was to increase production, make the country prosperous and developed quickly. For that he wanted to take the power to the grassroots through decentralisation, from where the development would be started," she said.
A meeting on agriculture production and stock was held at the Ganobhaban on Thursday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The meeting reviewed the country’s food production during the flood situation, particularly in the coming Aman season.
It also discussed implementation of 21 incentive packages declared by the government to face the losses due to COVID-19.
The Prime Minister gave necessary directives to the concerned officials at the meeting.
Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, Food Minister Shadhon Chandra Majumder, Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmed Kaikaus, PMO Secretary, Secretaries of Finance Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Ministry as well as the Bangladesh Bank Governor attended the meeting.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said if the current actions of humans keep going on unchecked it will not only cause the extinction of other species, but also move towards ultimate extinction of itself.
"We’re not only causing the extinction of other species but we are also actually moving towards ultimate extinction of human beings if our current actions continue to be unchecked," she said.
The Prime Minister said this in her pre-recorded speech in the 'Leaders Dialogue: Harnessing science, technology and innovation, capacity building, access and benefit-sharing, financing and partnerships for biodiversity' of the 'United Nations Summit on Biodiversity' with the theme 'Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development' at the UN Headquarters.
Sheikh Hasina put forward four action points -- focus on future sustainability while investing and for safeguarding biodiversity, create greater public awareness through education system and research, and strengthen national legislations and monitoring mechanisms are key actions -- before the world leaders to save the planet and human beings.
The other two action points are: Global access to benefit-sharing must be ensured for the true owners of the genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge and achieving the Paris goals could be the difference between human being's extinction and survival. "We must implement them."
The Prime Minister mentioned that human beings are living in an interdependent world where all species on earth have a specific role to play in its ecosystem.
She, however said, the world's wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 68 percent just from 1970 to 2016 according to the WWF and the Zoological Society of London.
"Bangladesh is heavily dependent on freshwater and freshwater biodiversity is declining at the fastest rate in the world with 85 percent of global wetlands have already been lost since the Industrial Revolution," she said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that the populations of freshwater mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes have fallen by an average of 4 percent each year since 1970. "We’re aggravating climate change and loss of biodiversity, and as a result, increasing the risk of ‘zoontic’ diseases like Covid-19."
In Bangladesh, she said, biodiversity conservation has been recognised in its Constitution as a fundamental principle of state policy and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman enacted the wildlife preservation order as early as in 1974. "Bangladesh is one of the few countries that enacted a law to implement the convention on Biological Diversity."
The Prime Minister mentioned that Parliament passed Bangladesh Biological Diversity Act 2017 aimed at preserving biodiversity. “We’ve declared more than 5 percent of the total terrestrial area and about 5 percent of the marine area as Protected and Ecologically Critical Areas.”
The United Nations Summit on Biodiversity was convened by the President of the General Assembly. The Summit highlighted the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development.
It has provided an opportunity for Heads of state and government and other leaders to raise ambitions for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in 2021.
This framework and its effective implementation must put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 to meet the SDGs and realise the Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday emphasised on the need for a better cooperation with neighbouring countries for the development of the people of this region.
"We always think that better cooperation is needed with the neighbouring countries firstly for the development of the people of the region as our foreign policy is 'friendship to all and malice towards none'," she said.
The prime minister made the remarks when outgoing Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das called on her at her official residence Ganobhaban.
After the meeting, PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters.
Sheikh Hasina also said that the neighbouring countries can use Chattogram, Sylhet and Syedpur airports for their convenience.
Ihsanul Karim said the prime minister and the high commissioner discussed bilateral issues.
The COVID-19 situation and the protracted Rohingya crisis also came up during the talks, he said.
Riva Ganguly said the two countries are working together to combat the virus.
She also appreciated the steps Bangladesh has taken under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to contain the pandemic.
The high commissioner lauded Bangladesh's economic development under the leadership of the prime minister amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sheikh Hasina said the people of all classes and professions are working together during this crisis.
She mentioned that large-scale programmes had been taken on the occasion of the 'Mujib Borsho'. "But we couldn’t celebrate many programmes due to coronavirus outbreak," she said.
She said alongside the government's tree plantation campaign, her party has taken a programme to plant 10 million trees across the country during the Mujib Borsho.
The high commissioner handed over a letter from Indian Premier Narendra Modi in which he (Modi) greeted Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of her 74th birthday.
The high commissioner also wished the prime minister on the occasion of her birthday.
The prime minister thanked Modi and Riva Ganguly for greeting her, the press secretary said.
Sheikh Hasina recalled India's contributions to Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.
She said the people of India and its political parties extended overwhelming support to Bangladesh's Liberation War and at the same way they supported the historic land boundary agreement with Bangladesh.
The Indian high commissioner informed the prime minister that the foreign ministers of the two countries are likely to hold talks virtually on Tuesday.
PM's Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus and Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Dhaka Bishwadip Dey were present on the occasion.
Expressing apprehension that the Covid-19 situation may deteriorate to some extent during the upcoming winter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday asked everyone to bolster preparation to fight the pandemic in wintertime.
“Winter is coming. The situation may deteriorate to some extent. But we’ve to take preparation from right now,” she said while receiving donation of Tk 165.6 crore for the PM’s Relief and Welfare Fund from over 40 organisations.
She joined the function through a videoconference from her official residence Ganobhaban as the representatives of the organisations handed over cheques to PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Of them, 34 commercial banks led by Bangladesh Association of Bank (BAB) provided total Tk 164 crore as donation.
Sheikh Hasina said everyone has been working with utmost sincerity to fight Covid-19 pandemic in the country. “That’s why we’ve been able to face it.”
Bangladesh has so far recorded 347,372 cases with 4,913 fatalities. The first cases were reported on March 8 and the first death on March 18. So far, 254,386 patients have recovered, pushing the recovery rate to 73.23 percent.
Currently, there are 88,073 active cases in the country.
Globally, the coronavirus caseload reached 30,673,633 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) tally with 955,404 deaths.
Coronavirus cases were first reported in China in December last year. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic in March.
There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus but a number of promising candidates are in the final stage of trial.
‘Want banks to run properly’
Talking about the banks, she hinted that the weak banks will be merged following proper assessments, if necessary.
“There are some banks that become very weak. In many cases, merging is essential. In that case, it’ll have to be considered which bank is functioning properly or not. It’ll be done considering these things. Keep trust (on government) that nothing will be done without consideration (assessment),” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government had taken the decision to permit banks in the private sector and it gave the permission to the highest number of the private banks, which created huge employments and expanded trade and business.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the programme virtually from her official residence. Photo: PID
She said her government had taken measures to make the people habituated to the banking system up to the rural level so that they can make transactions using the banking channels.
In this context, the Prime Minister mentioned that her government created scope for the farmers to open a bank account with Tk 10.
“So, we want that the banks will run properly … We always consider all of your logical demands that you bring (before me),” she said.
Noting that the government will definitely consider whether there is any problem in running the banks, she asked the BAB and the authorities of the banks to pay special attention so that the banks could function in proper manner.
Other organisations that made donations are Food Ministry, Foreign Officers Spouse Association (FOSA), Rajshahi Medical University, Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Bangladesh Judicial Employees Association and Minister Group. Alongside the cash money, Minister Group provided 100,000 surgical masks.
The 34 banks are – AB Bank Ltd, Al-Arafah Islami Bank Ltd, Bank Asia Ltd, BRAC Bank Ltd, City Bank Ltd, Dhaka Bank Ltd, Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd, Eastern Bank Ltd, EXIM Bank, First Security Islami Bank Ltd, Islami Bank (Bd) Ltd, Jamuna Bank Ltd, Mercantile Bank Ltd, Midland Bank Ltd, Modhumoti Bank Ltd, Mutual Trust Bank Ltd, National Bank Ltd, NCC Bank Ltd, NRB Bank Ltd, NRB Commercial Bank Ltd, NRB Global Bank Ltd, One Bank Ltd, Padma Bank Ltd, Prime Bank Ltd, Pubali Bank Ltd, SBAC Bank Ltd, Shahjalal Islami Bank Ltd, Social Islami Bank Ltd, Southeast Bank Ltd, Standard Bank Ltd, Trust Bank Ltd, Union Bank Ltd, United Commercial Bank Ltd and Uttara Bank Ltd.
The Prime Minister thanked the organisations for their contributions to the PM's Relief and Welfare Fund.