Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka generally wears a colourful look on the Independence Day every year but it was desolate on Thursday as the government is enforcing a lockdown to tackle the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The government has so far taken a slew of measures including shutting down educational institutions, road, rail, waterways and air traffic.
Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked everyone to stay home to help the government fight COVID-19.
The administration, aided by law enforcement agencies and the armed forces, is taking steps so that people maintain social distancing and suspects remain in quarantine.
Below are some photos of the capital captured on Thursday morning
Law enforcers are patrolling the city to curb unnecessary movement of people. To avoid questioning, a motorcyclist is bearing a placard explaining that he is going to hospital to visit a patient. Photo: UNB
The Moghbazar Flyover, which usually remains busy, was empty. Photo: UNB
Dhaka South City Corporation workers spread disinfectants on a road in Kamrangirchar as people look on. Photo: UNB
Buses parked idle at the Mohakhali Bus Terminal as vehicular movement to and from Dhaka was suspended earlier. Photo: UNB
Police set up check-posts at different places of the capital city. Photo: UNB
People can be hardly seen in Dhaka, one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. Photo: UNB
President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Dr Rubana Huq urged the owners to consider closure of their factories as the nation is fighting to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In a message, she said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave specific guidance to fight COVID-19 and asked to take cautionary steps for the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
“Following the Prime Minister, we should set an example as we are the largest industry of the country. We hope you will consider shutting down factories in due time,” she added.
The BGMEA President said factories which want to make personal protective equipment (PPE) can remain open and their workers can move. She said people already donated fabrics and even more ready to make for free.
Rubana said if anybody wants to keep factories open, they will have to ensure maximum safety and hygiene for their workers and take responsibility of their workers.
Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of readymade goods after China, earns majority of its foreign currencies from this sector which employs more than four million people, mostly women.
When coronavirus outbreak disrupted global supply chain and led to cancellation of orders and delay in shipment, the BGMEA turned to the government for help.
So far, 959 factories reported 826.42 million pieces worth $2.67 billion export have either been cancelled or held up affecting an estimated 1.95 million workers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday announced a stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore for the export-oriented industry to overcome the impact of COVID-19.
Also read: BGMEA thanks PM for stimulus package
This money will be used for providing the salaries and wages of workers and employees only.
As BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has been in quarantine at her Gulshan residence, her daughter-in-law and elder son Tarique Rahman's wife Dr Zubaida Rahman is coordinating with doctors both at home and London to ensure her proper treatment.
“Our leader is in quarantine at her Gulshan home and we’ve taken steps to ensure her treatment there,” BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told UNB on Thursday.
He said Dr Zubaida Rahman is overseeing the treatment of the BNP chairperson. “She (Zubaida) is coordinating with doctors in London and here (Bangladesh).”
The BNP leader said Khaleda’s personal physicians here are examining her health and ensuring treatment for her various ailments.
Asked for how many days Khaleda may remain there in quarantine, he said doctors will decide it.
Dr Zubaida has long been staying with her husband Tarique in London.
Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam said Khaleda has been there in quarantine at her home following the physicians’ advice, but she will be provided necessary treatment there.
She said her sister is suffering from respiratory problem and s unable to speak, walk and stand up. “She can’t sit for a long time and fell pain in her body. She’s also unable to eat due to vomiting problem. She’s not in a position to move.”
Under the situation, Selima said Khaleda also wants to stay at home and take treatment there instead of any hospital.
BNP vice-chairman Dr AZM Zahid Hossain said though Khaleda's morale has boosted to some extent seeing her family members and party leaders, she is very sick.
He said she has personal physicians, one nurse, to ensure all the parameters for quarantine. “They’ll look after her at her house.”
On Wednesday, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir Khaleda Zia will remain in quarantine for a few days at her Gulshan residence as per her physicians’ advice.
“We just met madam (Khaleda). She’s very sick. Physicians visited her and discussed ways of ensuring her treatment. They advised us to keep her in quarantine for some days so that no-one can meet her now,” he said.
Khaleda was released from jail on Wednesday for six months upon an execute order considering her age and humanitarian ground.
The government passed the executive order for her release on two conditions -- receiving treatment staying at her Gulshan residence and not leaving the country.
Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail after she had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a special court in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018.
The High Court later raised her punishment to 10 years in the case following an appeal by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The lower court also sentenced imprisoned Khaleda to seven years in Zia Charitable Trust corruption the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.
Bangladesh observed its Independence Day on Thursday but this year all programmes were cancelled as part of measures to curb the possible transmission of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
On March 26, 1971, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared Bangladesh's independence following the crackdown on unarmed Bangalees on the midnight of March 25 by Pakistani occupation forces.
Bangladesh finally emerged as an independent country on December 16, 1971, after a nine-month Liberation War in which three million people sacrificed their lives and 200,000 women were dishonoured.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages extending heartfelt greetings and warm felicitations to the people of the country at home and abroad.
President Hamid, in his message, urged everyone to be imbued with the spirit of the Liberation War and resolve in 'Mujib Year' to turn our country into 'Sonar Bangla' by completing the unfinished tasks of Bangabandhu.
“The golden jubilee of our independence will be observed in 2021 with great enthusiasm. Bangladesh will enter a new chapter - a new horizon. With the concerted efforts of all, let our beloved motherland be a poverty-free developed one; it is my expectation on Independence Day,” he said.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, in her message, said the government has been implementing ‘Vision-2021’, ‘Vision-2041’ and ‘Delta Plan-2100’ and working tirelessly to build a Bangladesh envisioned by the Father of the Nation.
“Let us unite in the spirit of the great War of Liberation and maintain the continuation of development and democracy by facing any sort of conspiracy. Let us transform Bangladesh into a safe and peaceful home for our next generation. This should be our firm commitment on the Independence Day,” she said.
The day was a public holiday.
National dailies brought out special supplements while Bangladesh Betar, Bangladesh Television, private radio stations and television channels aired special programmes highlighting the significance of the day.
Different political parties as well as socio-cultural and professional organisations have also suspended all programmes to avoid public gathering and maintain social distancing following the directives of the government as well as the World Health Organization.
Members of Armed Forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- have started patrolling in different districtsto support the local administrations ensure social distancing and keep coronavirus suspects in home quarantine to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
Rashedul Alam Khan, assistant director of ISPR, said members of armed forces have continued their work to help local administration under "In Aid to Civil power" across the country, including the capital city.
Members of Bangladesh Navy are patrolling 19 coastal upazilas in five districts.
They are using loudspeakers to ask people stay indoors and performing other tasks to help the local administration, he said.
Members of Bangladesh army are also conducting the same activities in other areas including Dhaka.
Helicopters and other transport aircraft are onstandby to carry emergency medical equipment and transportation in different bases, Rashed said.
In Rangamati, army personnel divided in four mobile teams started patrolling around 10am.
They were helping the district administrating to ensure social distancing in roads and markets in the district, sources said.
During a visit, UNB correspondent found the bustling district town has become lifeless and hardly anyone was seen in the roads and markets after the government stopped public transport to control the spread of coronavirus.
However, some day labourers were found working in some places.
In Brahmanbaria, army members have started patrolling different important points.
Besides, some mobile teams have been working in the district town to monitor the closure of business establishments except some shops of daily commodities and pharmacies.
Meanwhile, 1,548 overseas returnees, including 125 in last 24 hours, have been sent to home quarantine for 14 days.
In Laxmipur, the district administration has closed all business establishments, except medical stores, hospitals, and shops of daily commodities. It has also stopped all sorts of public transports.
Army personnel were found patrolling different important areas.
Besides, district administration, police and civil surgeon have been working to raise mass awareness among people in the district. A total of 872 people, including 69 in last 24 hours, were sent to home quarantine.