Calling for forging a national consensus to tackle the coronavirus crisis, Jatiya Oikyafront, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, on Tuesday placed a five-point proposal.
In a statement, the senior leaders of the opposition alliance also said it is not possible to overcome any disaster with a “narrow and partisan” attitude.
They said the cases of coronavirus, a global crisis, are gradually growing in Bangladesh, creating panic among people. “It’s now urgently necessary for the government to ensure the essential lifesaving healthcare services of 18 crore people who are at the risk of coronavirus, and expand the corona testing facilities across the country.”
Jatiya Oikyafront leader Dr Kamal Hossain. File photo
The Oikyafront leaders said people are passing their days amid deep uncertainty as the corona infection is spreading fast.
They said the lack of coordination regarding the reopening and shutting down of RMG factories was suicidal which has actually hampered the shutdown activities and ruined people’s confidence.
Their five proposals are forging a national consensus with the participation of all political parties, professional and social organisations, experts and all organs of the nation irrespective of tier party and opinion, forming an all-party task force and adopting national-regional action plans by giving health services the highest priority, taking special initiatives to protect the displaced Rohingya from the outbreak of coronavirus, introducing food rationing system at fair prices for the unemployed people, especially female RMG workers, day-labourers, marginal farmers, physically-challenged and disadvantaged children and Forming an "Emergency Economic Council" on the basis of national consensus to tackle the post-corona socioeconomic situation.
Gonoforum president Dr Kamal Hossain, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee members Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan, JSD president ASM Abdur Rob, Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna and Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, among others, signed the statement.
BNP described the Prime Minister’s stimulus package of Tk72,750 crore as a package of loan, and said she ignored those involved in the informal sector by not announcing any grant for them.
“We could have said the Prime Minister’s response positive had she taken initiatives to resolve the main problem. There’s nothing (incentive package) for the common people who belong to the informal sector, the starving, working ones and the farmers,” he said.
The BNP leader further said, “It seems to me the stimulus package of Tk72,750 crore was given only to create a good impression among people with the size of the money. The fact is that the whole amount is nothing but loan. There's no grant from the government. It’s a loan package of Tk72,750.”
Fakhrul made the remarks through an online press briefing on the Prime Minister’s press conference.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced four new stimulus packages of Tk 67,750 crore to overcome the possible economic shock from the ongoing shutdown enforced due to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. With the previously announced Tk 5,000 crore stimulus package, the amount of the whole package now stands at Tk 72,750 crore.
The announcement came from a press conference of the Prime Minister held at her official residence Ganobhaban.
Earlier on Saturday, BNP demanded the government form a special fund of Tk 87,000 crore to tackle the impacts of coronavirus on the country’s economy.
The party has proposed allocating Tk 61,000 crore for the 'short-term sector', Tk 18,000 crore for 'medium-term sector' and Tk 8,000 crore for 'unforeseen sector'.
Fakhrul said they urged the government to give a grant of Tk 15,000 crore for the poor and those hand to mouth. “We also called upon the government to raise allowances of the doctors and nurses and give them an incentive for the health sector. But the Prime Minister didn’t pay heed to it.”
He also said many poor people and day-labourers and those involved in the informal sector are passing through a critical time without any income and job. “Unfortunately, she (PM) didn’t say anything about the sector, let alone announcing any package for them.”
The BNP leader said the expatriate Bangladeshis who send huge remittance to the country have also been left out of the incentive package.
He alleged that the Prime Minister also completely neglected the health sector in terms of announcing stimulus package though this sector should now be modernised with necessary equipment and ventilators to provide proper treatment to the virus infected people.
The BNP leader said the government should go for a complete lockdown of the country to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus “I think a complete lockdown is now the only option, but the government can’t realise what a deadly situation the country is going to face. The number of cases doubled today (Sunday) than yesterday (Saturday).”
Referring to media reports, Fakhrul said people are not getting treatment at the country’s 87 percent hospitals for different diseases, but the government is not looking into the matter and taking any visible steps to resolve it
Trashing the allegations of the ruling party leaders that BNP leaders are not staying besides people, he said their party leaders and activists at all unions, villages and upazilas across the country are providing people food and other assistance and relief materials as per their ability.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, receiving treatment at her Gulshan residence, is doing well but worried about the prevailing coronavirus situation in the country.
Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, a member of the BNP chairperson’s personal physician team, said, “Madam’s (Khaleda’s) heath condition is now stable but she needs advanced treatment for a long time to fully recover from her illness.”
He said they are giving the 75-year-old BNP leader necessary treatment under the supervision of her daughter-in-law Dr Zubaida Rahman.
Zahid said Dr Zubaida is overseeing her treatment from London.
On March 25 last, Khaleda was released from jail 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.
Another team member of Khaleda’s personal physicains, wishing anonymity, said Khaleda Zia is unable to walk while she is suffering from pain in the joints of her hands and legs. “She has been given therapy to relive her pains. Her diabetic condition still didn’t come under control. She has some other physical problems for which she needs treatment for a long-time.”
He said although the BNP chief is ill, she now feels comfortable at the homely environment.
The doctor said Khaleda is passing her time by reading newspapers and books.
He said she is worried about the spread of coronavirus across the world, including in Bangladesh. “She’s concerned over the plight of poor people as many of them now have no source of income due to the shutdown of economic activity. She also wanted to know from doctors when the country may be freed from the virus. She looks upset over the rise in the coronavirus cases in the country.”
BNP on Thursday demanded police security at Firoza, the Gulshan residence of its chairperson Kaleda Zia.
The BNP chief has been there in the house since her release from jail on March 25 for six months on an executive order.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi made the demand at a press conference at the party’s Nayapaltan central office.
Rizvi said Khaleda’s personal secretary submitted an application to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) seeking police protection for her, but no step has so far been taken in this regard.
“I, on behalf of BNP, have request the IGP to take immediate steps to ensure the security of our leader Khaleda Zia,” he said.
On March 25, Khaleda was released temporarily keeping her sentences suspended following an executive order over 25 months after she had been convicted and sent to jail in graft cases.
The government passed the executive order for her release upon two conditions -- receiving treatment staying at her Gulshan residence and not leaving the country.
The 75-year-old BNP leader has been in quarantine now at her Gulshan residence.
About the coronavirus situation, Rizvi said though the government is saying everything is under its control, the western media are saying the next two weeks are very risky for Bangladesh while foreign diplomats and citizens are leaving the country. “We’ll have to face serious consequences if we fail to contain the spread of the virus now with proper protective measures.”
He alleged that the real scenario of the coronavirus infection in the country is not getting exposed due to the government’s ‘hide-and-seek ’policy.
Rizvi voiced concern that the deaths of many people with the symptoms of coronavirus like cough, fever, respirator and cold-related problems are being reported every day by the media though the government said only one person died over the last two days.
The BNP leader said the government should focus on increasing coronavirus testing facilities and strictly enforce the lockdown and home quarantine to check the spread of the deadly virus.
“It won’t be possible to overcome a serious pandemic like coronavirus by concealing information. People should be encouraged to maintain the quarantine by providing them accurate information,” he observed.
He alleged that the government has arrested 12 doctors and BNP activists under the Digital Security Act for criticising the government’s ‘information hiding policy’. “We demand that the arrested be released immediately.”
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Wednesday urged BNP to stand by people refraining from trying to make political gains in this crisis of Coronavirus.
“BNP leaders are busy criticising the government through holding press conferences instead of standing by people,” he said while speaking at a press briefing at his residence in the city.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Tuesday alleged that people are not getting treatment at hospitals as the government is failing to handle the current situation. “We’re repeatedly saying we all must come forward to protect the nation considering the current situation from the humanitarian point of view instead of political one.”
He said the government must work out a plan as to how opposition parties and government employees can effectively be utilised to overcome the crisis.
Fakhrul also suggested the government to form a national committee to contain the coronavirus outbreak and its fallout. “We’re not criticising the government for the sake of opposing its activities. We want to cooperate with the government as we called for working unitedly to tackle the current situation,” he told reporters at his Uttara residence.
Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, talked about the progress on the work of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, saying 78.50 percent work has already completed.
Meanwhile, AL Subcommittee on Relief and Social Welfare distributed protective equipment among different hospitals and social organisations at the party chief’s Dhanmondi political office.