State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said the government will bring back Bangladeshi citizens from India who got stuck there once the current countrywide lockdown is withdrawn there.
"The Indian government has requested us to wait a bit for withdrawal of the local lockdown," he said, adding that they have already talked to Biman Bangladesh Airlines for special flight operation.
The state minister said the government has already brought back Bangladeshi citizens from Kolkata by road with special permission. The returnees have been put on quarantine.
He was responding to queries in a Facebook live conducted by television journalist Morshed Hassib.
India is under 21-day lockdown until April 14 which began on March 25 to slow the spread of coronavirus with a halt on bus, rail and air communications.
Around 2,500 Bangladeshi nationals are currently in India who got stuck there and of them over 1,000 are students, according to Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi.
There are broadly three categories of Bangladesh nationals currently in India - who are willing to stay back until the situation improves but facing cash crisis, students and those who are released from hospitals after necessary treatment.
The state minister also mentioned Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia from where people want to return.
He said Bangladesh and Singapore will soon arrange a special flight to exchange a small group of people from both countries.
Responding to a question from UNB, Shahriar said it is a matter of minutes to bring them under law who are spreading rumours in various ways in the country.
He urged those spreading false news from foreign land to concentrate on their families, near and dear ones; and what is happening in the countries where they are currently staying.
"This is an unprecedented situation. Refrain from spreading rumours at this critical moment," said the state minister.
He said each country is going through tests and laid emphasis on joint efforts to deal with the situation.
Shahriar said the government has the technology to identify who is doing what and from which location.
Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi is in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here to work out a proper plan as these Bangladesh citizens in India are not just from one city.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Bangladesh missions in India are looking into welfare issues of Bangladeshi nationals in India.
Officials at the missions are in constant contact with them over phone.
The missions remain active to resolve any problems faced by stranded 2,500 Bangladesh nationals there including financial crisis, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
United Nations Development Programme with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Bangladesh is rolling out $1.5 million emergency food support for 50,000 extremely urban poor families to ameliorate some of their immediate hardships and counter potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This emergency COVID-19 response initiative has been implemented under UNDP’s Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) – a joint project being implemented by the Local Government Division of Bangladesh, DFID and UNDP with an aim to reduce urban poverty, said UNDP on Tuesday.
“Reaching the urban poor and vulnerable very quickly and rapidly is always challenging in a global crisis like COVID-19. I am very pleased that DFID, in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh and UNDP, was able to respond so quickly," said Judith Herbertson, DFID Bangladesh Country Representative.
The livelihoods of a large number of urban poor have been severely disrupted due to the lockdown and the loss of income, said the DFID official.
"By working closely with the officials of the City administration, the Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project is responding to the situation in a number of ways, including providing hand washing facilities and cash grants to buy food for those whose income has either stopped or been severely affected due to this unprecedented situation,” said Herbertson.
“What we are trying to do under this initiative, is to make things easier for the people to follow the public order – which is to stay home and prevent the virus from spreading and therefore this partnership will deliver food at the doorsteps of the poor households. We are targeting 2.16 million urban poor people to keep them safe from Coronavirus. I thank DFID for their timely support,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh.
The urban low-income communities in Bangladesh are exposed to high risk of infections for overcrowded living conditions with inadequate sanitation and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities.
The DFID has provided £3 million to UNDP to reach at least 2.16 million people in urban slums across 20 City Corporations/Municipalities with awareness raising information and handwashing facilities.
The strong network and platform established by the project at the city corporation and municipal levels are being used to promote preparedness and early actions against the pandemic with a focus on vulnerable populations including women, children, elderly and persons with disabilities (PWD).
Around 1200+ community workers, with full personal protection, are working on the ground to promote coronavirus prevention awareness including individual handwashing behavior and distribution of hygiene package that includes soap, hand sanitizer, etc. among the urban poor households.
The project has also started installation of 2500 handwashing facilities at the poor settlements and is working to sensitize and build capacities of health officials and volunteers in 20 cities.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, United Nations Development Programme has stepped up for the people of Bangladesh through its countrywide network of projects and resources.
Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO), a project under the Local Government Division, is one of them, UNDP said on Tuesday.
SWAPNO has begun an awareness campaign in 172 unions of four project districts areas, aiming to raise awareness among people about Covid-19 and its prevention methods.
The awareness campaign began on April 6 and it will be active in 172 unions across Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Jamalpur and Gaibandha. Around 50,000 people will be benefitted through this campaign.
The campaign is being carried out through multiple mediums.
Posters and leaflets on protecting oneself from coronavirus are being distributed while there are also demonstrations of ideal hand-washing practices and distribution of basic hygiene kits consisting of soap and mask.
Messages are also being disseminated through Radio Chilmari and Radio Sarabela, two popular local radio stations in Kurigram and Gaibandha, respectively.
Apart from that, loudspeakers that are already installed at mosques are used in spreading awareness regularly.
“The spread of Covid-19 is not just a health crisis but it is a social, economic and political crisis that will leave deep scars. To fight Covid-19, we’re working on three prongs simultaneously: preparing, responding, and recovering," said Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP.
"Thanks to UNDP and LGD for taking the awareness campaign and distribution of precautionary goods. It might save lots of lives,“ said Md Rafiqul Islam, ADC General, Lalmonirhat district.
Since 2014, SWAPNO has been working as a social transfer and empowerment project for ultra-poor women to be who are engaged in public works that are essential for improving in the economic and social lives of rural communities.
It promotes employment, and most importantly works to improve future employability, of extreme poor rural women.
The heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) have pledged to work together to facilitate trade in essential goods such as medical supplies, food and energy.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and WCO Secretary General Dr Kunio Mikuriya in a joint statement on Monday said the two organisations would work closely together to minimise disruption to cross-border trade in goods — in particular those essential to combat the COVID-19 pandemic — while safeguarding public health.
They also promised to establish a coordinated approach to support initiatives that facilitate cross-border trade so that essential goods can quickly reach those most in need, including in least developed and land-locked countries.
WTO and WCO members have already been invited to increase transparency by sharing information on new trade and trade-related measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread globally and governments consider new measures to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, we urge members to ensure that any new border action is targeted, proportionate, transparent and non-discriminatory,” they declared.
The COVID-19 pandemic, while above all a public health crisis, presents the world with unprecedented social and economic challenges, according to WTO.
Emergency measures needed to curb the spread of the disease have unintended impacts on the world economy and trade, including the global supply chains that produce and distribute essential goods such as medical supplies, food, and energy.
To support the ongoing efforts to mitigate the social and economic effects of the pandemic, the Secretariats of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), agreed to work closely together to minimize disruption to cross-border trade in goods — in particular those essential to combat COVID-19 — while safeguarding public health.
"We commit to provide appropriate support to all relevant stakeholders," they said.
Within their respective mandates, WTO, WCO chiefs have already invited Members to increase transparency by sharing information on new trade and trade-related measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To the extent appropriate, we are making such information publicly available through our respective websites," they said.
They are also willing to establish a coordinated approach in support of initiatives that facilitate cross-border trade in goods, in particular those key to combat COVID-19.
This would allow that essential goods can quickly reach those most in need, including in least developed and land-locked countries, they said.
As COVID-19 continues to spread globally and governments consider new measures to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, they urged Members to ensure that any new border action is targeted, proportionate, transparent and non-discriminatory — as agreed by G20 leaders.
"We stress that these measures should be temporary, and we encourage Members to rescind them once they are no longer needed, especially if they restrict trade. We welcome initiatives to facilitate and simplify cross-border procedures and urge our Members to prioritize those for exporting and importing essential goods."
As the pandemic evolves, WTO and WCO chiefs said they will continue to further explore ways to coordinate the efforts of the two organizations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at keeping trade flows open for the safety of populations around the world and a strong recovery of the global economy.
South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) has said there is a need for a strong stance against corruption, and ensuring transparency and accountability in social security programmes.
"For the poor, the very poor, the marginalised population and the people who are suddenly vulnerable in the current situation, there’s a need to significantly increase the size and coverage of social security programmes and the creation of new types of social security programmes," said SANEM Executive Director Dr Selim Raihan on Monday.
Welcoming the government's financial package to address the crisis caused by the coronavirus, he said a large part of this large population is in the informal sector.
"But there’s no emphasis on the informal sector in the announced financial package," Selim said.
According to past experiences, he said, there are many gaps in the existing social security programmes so that the fulfillment of the objectives of these programmes is often hampered.
He said as they have suggested for the two-year economy recovery plan from SANEM, there are four things to keep in mind in the context of the forthcoming national budget.
SANEM executive director said this financial package requires a large allocation to the health sector, which is not mentioned in the announced financial package.
"It’s necessary to increase the allocation in the health sector by many folds in the budget. The government needs to cut down less important government spending to finance the increased allocation for the health sector," he said.
The tax-management and banking sectors need some much-needed and urgent reforms, which has long been neglected, in order to effectively arrange the money announced in this financial package, he said.
"Now is the time to take some ‘politically feasible’ reforms and act against the vested interests in these two sectors," said the SANEM chief.
He said care must be taken to ensure that the benefits of this financial package are not held in the hands of certain influential sectors and groups.
"In this case, it is necessary to make the financial package transparent and ensure transparency and accountability in implementing these policies," he mentioned.