POST TIME: 7 April, 2020 00:00 00 AM
PM orders lockdown of virus prone areas
Hasina Takes Tipu Munshi to task

PM orders lockdown of virus prone areas

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chairs a meeting of the cabinet at Ganabhaban in the capital yesterday. Focus Bangla Photo

Prime Minister Sheikh Hssina has asked the authorities concerned to lock down areas with the rising number of COVID-19 patients. She also asked garments factory owners to stop production, except those that are producing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), fearing the spread of the coronavirus. The premier gave this directive at a cabinet meeting held at the PM’s official residence in the capital yesterday.

At the meeting, Hasina also asked the jail authorities to release at least 3,000 prisoners who are facing trial in different cases and accused in petty offences because of the risk of coronavirus-infection spreading in crowded jails. Hasina chided Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi over the entry of thousands of garments workers in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj, even as a national lockdown is in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The workers flocked to these areas to reach their respective workplaces in fear that they might lose their jobs otherwise.

Hasina wanted to know how and why the commerce minister had taken the decision to reopen some garments factories without consulting the authorities concerned in the middle of the lockdown.

A senior minister, who attended the Cabinet meeting, told this to The Independent.

The commerce minister failed to give any concrete answer to the PM's queries, the minister said.

Hasina and her Cabinet colleagues discussed the current situation during

a two-hour unscheduled meeting, the minister added.

The PM asked all the ministers and people’s representatives to take every decision by discussing with the authorities concerned to help control the COVID-19 situation, according to the minister. Hasina also asked the authorities concerned to strictly enforce the lockdown across the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Earlier, without any coordination, the commerce minister had held a meeting at his ministry and decided to reopen some garments factories. But the decision was criticised by experts and ordinary people alike. As per the decision, officials of the garments factories made phone calls to their workers, asking them to join their workplaces. In response, the workers started moving to their places of work, especially to the capital, Gazipur and Narayanganj. They used local modes of transport, such as ferries, and even walked long distances to reach the factories. But the authorities finally changed their decision and chose not to reopen the factories.

But the thousands of workers cannot now go back to their village homes as the authorities have blocked some areas, especially in Dhaka, to restrict the entry and exit of people to prevent social transmission of the deadly virus.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) president has already issued a statement, urging garments factory owners not to resume production at this critical time. The government has also extended the general holiday to April 14, fearing the spread of the coronavirus.

Sources said the ministers for home affairs, finance, planning, commerce, law, fisheries and livestock, and ICT and science attended the cabinet meeting, wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines.