Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said educational institutions in the country will remain closed till September next if there is no improvement in the prevailing situation triggered by COVID-19.
"We won’t reopen schools and other educational institutions now, at least till September. These schools, colleges and other educational institutions will remain closed as coronavirus prevalence continues…," she said.
If the coronavirus effect continues, she said, the educational institutions will remain closed. "We’ll reopen those when it (coronavirus) will stop," she said.
The Prime Minister said this while holding a videoconference with the public representatives and officials of districts under Rajshahi division over COVID-19 from her official residence Ganobhaban.
The districts are Bogura, Chapainawabganj, Joypurhat, Naogaon, Natore, Pabna, Rajshahi and Sirajganj.
Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and some private TV channels and radio stations broadcast the videoconference live.
Earlier, the Prime Minister exchanged views with the public representatives and officials of 51 districts of Dhaka, Chattogram, Khulna, Sylhet, Barishal and Mymensingh divisions in five phases.
Sheikh Hasina requested the businesspeople, who took loans for operating their business entities, not to be worried about the loan interests.
"You were doing your business taking loans, but your loans have piled up for the shutdown in these months due to the coronavirus…so don’t think about that (loan interest)," she said.
The Prime Minister mentioned that the lending organisations were not supposed to take those interests right now.
"After this meeting (videoconference), I’ll sit with the Finance Minister…we’ll consider to suspend the interests (against the loans), we’ll consider how much we can waive the interests and how much you can repay those regularly. You do not need to be gripped by anxiety," she said.
Keeping people alive maintaining the ways of lives and livelihood is the major thing right now, Hasina said.
The Prime Minister said the government is gradually relaxing the less affected areas where the coronavirus is yet to spread largely. "We’re giving our attention to that areas so that people could lead a normal life and carry out their trade and business," she added.
In this abnormal situation, the safety of people is the prime task of the government.
She laid emphasis on protection of the doctors, nurses and health workers serving the coronavirus-infected patients.
"For that we’ve collected 15,16,190 pieces of PPE. Of them, 12,42,800 pieces have been distributed while 274,100 are there in stock. We’re collecting PPEs and distributing those," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government has announced stimulus packages of Tk one lakh crore for all the businesses, including small and medium ones, to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19. "The small businesses being affected in this situation can take loans with only two percent interest rate…we’ll look after them so that they could continue their businesses."
She reiterated that there will be an economic recession worldwide due to this COVID-19 and international organisations are apprehending a famine.
Boosting farm output
"Our land is fertile; we’ve to put emphasis so that there’s no food scarcity for us… we’ve to make sure not a single piece of land remains unutilised so that we can save our country from famine after corona pandemic," Hasina said.
She also stressed the importance of maintaining production as only agriculture can save people since food is the most important thing.
Hasina also said the government has announced a new stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore to provide financial assistance to small and medium farmers in rural areas for boosting agricultural production facing the fallout of Covid-19.
She said if everybody works unitedly then there will be no food crisis in the country. "This is why we’ve deiced to procure 21 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains."
The government has allocated 95,000 metric tonnes of rice and around Tk 40 crore cash for distribution in 64 districts where the government has given responsibility to 64 secretaries to coordinate the relief distribution, the PM said.
She directed the local administrations and ruling party leaders and activists to prepare a separate list of distressed people who are not included in any government provided social safety net programmes, to provide assistance. "We’ll provide separate card in this regard."
Fr the holy month of Ramadan and upcoming Eid, the PM said, the government will distribute food so that no one remains in any painful condition.
Talking about goods transportation, Hasina said there is no restriction for this and she has directed the law enforcement agencies to cooperate in this regard.
Hasina also said the government is thinking about creating more scopes for transporting goods easily. "We might open waterways gradually for the transportation of goods. This way the prices of goods will remain under control."
Poor man sets example
Talking about a noble gesture of a ‘beggar’, Nazim Uddin of Jhinaigati village in Sherpur district, who donated his savings of Tk 10,000 for the affected people, the Prime Minister said he has created a noble example for the whole world.
"We don’t see such a humane gesture among many rich people, they always express dissatisfaction," she said.
The Prime Minister said when any type of calamity strikes it has to be faced. "And this calamity (COVID-19) is a worldwide one…. all will’ve to work as one unit to find a way to get rid of this."
She also mentioned that darkness does not prevails forever and there will be light for sure.
"We again will start out journey towards the path of light."