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."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will join a virtual conference on ‘Enhancing regional cooperation in South Asia to combat Covid-19 related impact on its Economics’ on Thursday evening.
The Prime Minister will deliver the opening remarks on ‘Bangladesh-Building Regional Resilience to fight Covid-19’ at the conference, said PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim.
The conference will start with the welcome remarks by Borge Brende, the President of World Economic Forum(WEF), at 7pm.
Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for South-East Asia of the World Health Organization (WHO), will make a special briefing on the COVID-19 situation.
Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare of the World Economic Forum, will provide important insights over the coronavirus situation from the Forum's Healthcare Community.
Then the moderator will open the floor and call upon relevant contributors to share their views. The participants are members of the Regional Action Group for the South Asia.
The conference will be wrapped up with the presentation of summary and next steps from the World Economic Forum.
Sixteen Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to help the distressed migrants and their families left behind in Bangladesh during this coronavirus pandemic.
They sent an open letter signed by Prof Dr Tasneem Siddiqui of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) to the Prime Minister on Monday to this end.
CSOs called for creating a fund for the distressed migrants and their family members as well as increasing incentives to stop the downward trend in remittance flow.
They also urged the Prime Minister to gear up the administration and make it accountable to reduce the scope of trafficking in post-coronavirus situation.
The organisations called for bringing a change in the education policy to tap the future labour markets and sought initiative to create a positive mindset about the migrants.
In the open letter, the CSO leaders mentioned that migrants send remittance worth US$ 18 billion every year.
Apart from RMMRU, the other the CSOs are WARBE DF, BOMSA, IMA Research Foundation, MJF, ASK, BASUG, INAFI, BCWWF, YPSA, BOAF, Bastob, Rights Jessore, Devcom, Film 4 Peace and Change Makers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday directed the authorities concerned to strengthen monitoring so that genuine masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are supplied to prevent the coronavirus transmission.
“Boxes are labeled with ‘N-95 Mask’. But you’ve to look into whether things inside the boxes are genuine,” she said while talking to the high officials of the health sector through a videoconference from her official residence Ganobhaban.
The Prime Minister stressed the need for strengthening monitoring whether the suppliers are providing the right things. “Those who receive these (PPE) will check those properly (things inside the boxes),” she said.
Noting that the PPEs recently delivered to Mohanagar Hospital might not be the right ones, Sheikh Hasina said she recently sent a photo to the Health Minister in this regard.
Health Services Division Secretary Md Ashadul Islam, Director General of Health Services Prof Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Director of Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD) Brig Gen Md Shahidullah and other high officials remained connected with the videoconference from the office of the Directorate General of Health Services in the city’s Mohakhali area.
CMSD Director Brig Gen Md Shahidullah said they received 14,67,040 PPEs as of Sunday last. Of those, 10,93,119 PPEs have already been distributed. “Now 3,73,921 PPEs are there in the store,” he said.
He said 70 percent of the PPEs were collected locally, while the rest 30 percent imported from foreign sources, particularly China.
The CMSD director said N-95 mask is not available now. But masks ‘KN-95’, ‘FFP-2 or P-2’ are equivalent to N-95 in terms of the quality. The CMSD received a stock of two lakh such masks, which are now being distributed, he said.
The videoconference was arranged to discuss with the government officials and public representatives of eight districts --four under Dhaka division and four under Mymensingh division— the situation over coronavirus pandemic.
The eight districts are Kishoreganj, Tangail, Gazipur and Manikganj of Dhaka division, and Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur and Netrakona of Mymensingh Division.
PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus conducted the function, while Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim, PMO Secretary Md Tofazzel Hossain Miah and other high officials were present.
French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly on Monday emphasized mounting more pressure on Myanmar to take their Rohingya nationals back from Bangladesh.
"More pressure on Myanmar should be mounted," she said when she met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office.
PM's press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
Karim said the French Minister assured her country’s support towards Bangladesh on Rohingya issue in the coming days.
She also highly appreciated Bangladesh for handling the crisis.
Florence Parly also said there are many things in common with Bangladesh and both the countries are working together in different sectors across the globe, especially in peacekeeping missions.
She expressed her keen interest to provide training in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University.
They also discussed the coronavirus situation in their respective countries and elsewhere in the world.
The Prime Minister said two of the three identified corona virus infected people in Bangladesh came from Italy. "The infected people have been isolated and kept in a hospital (for treatment)," she said.
Regarding celebration of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina said it will be done in different ways considering the prevailing situation across the world caused by the corona outbreak.
In the defence sector, she said, the government has its highest priority to training and sought French assistance in this connection.
About the Bangabandhu Satellite, Hasina said the government will go for Bangabandhu Satellite-II as the lifetime of the satellite is 15 years.
She also said Bangladesh is happy with the existing cooperation in the area of defence between the two countries. "Bangladesh would be happy to see greater cooperation with France in this sector."
She also recalled with gratitude the support of French government, its people and leading intellectuals, including renowned novelist Andre Malraux, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Principal Staff Officer of Armed Forces Division Lieutenant General Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman, Defence Secretary Abdullah Al Mohsin Chowdhury and French Ambassador to Bangladesh Jean-Marin SCHUH were, among others, were present during the meeting.