The government plans to restrict shopping and travelling without proof of Covid-19 vaccination to fight the rising Covid-19 infections. Educational institutions around the country are also taking measures to control the recent surge in infections.
After a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam highlighted a few latest measures to control Covid-19 infections in the light of the recent spike in Covid-19 positivity rate.
"Students above 12 cannot go to school without taking the first dose and no one can go outside without masks," he said, adding, "Vaccination drive must be strengthened and booster dose inoculation must be increased."
Restrictions will also be imposed on holding meetings and events, he said, adding that sailors and crew members on ships will have to quarantine on the ship after travelling. People will not be allowed to enter the ongoing trade fair and the upcoming book fair without vaccination cards.
The cabinet secretary also stressed the importance of strengthening the vaccination drive and bringing more people under the booster dose inoculation process.
If the infection rate maintains its upward trend, public transports will only be allowed to carry passengers at half capacity. "Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) will be instructed not to increase fares if that happens," he added.
The shop owners in the country have welcomed the recent restrictions by the government. Helal Uddin, president of Bangladesh Shop Owners' Association, said they are making preparations to comply with government directives.
Earlier, to keep the Covid-19 situation under control in the country, the government planned not to allow anyone to dine at restaurants without a vaccination certificate.
Meanwhile, the country's Covid-19 cases have been steadily increasing for the past few days. Till 8 am on Thursday, Bangladesh reported some 1,140 Covid-19 cases, the highest in 98 days, which is almost 5% of the total infections across the country.
Restrictions at educational institutions
The public universities are emphasising on following health guidelines due to the latest spike in Covid-19 infection rate as they plan to not allow entry to any students, teachers, and employees who violate health rules.
The authorities of Jahangirnagar University (JU) have decided to halt in-person classes due to risks posed by the rising Covid-19 infections. The decision was taken by the university authority on 5 January, JU Proctor Dr Md Firoz Ahmed told The Business Standard. However, the decision is yet to be announced officially, he added.
Acting Registrar of the university Rahima Kaniz said, "In-person classes will remain closed from Sunday (9 January) until further notice."
However, the ongoing examinations and practical classes will continue in small groups in multiple classrooms maintaining social distancing and health protocols. "The number of examination halls and groups for practical exams will be increased if necessary," she stated.
Professor Md Akhtaruzzaman, the vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, told The Business Standard that they have already issued a notice asking students, teachers and employees to wear masks all time. "We do not want to close the residential halls and campus but we will have nothing to do if the situation comes to that," he added.
Professor Farid Uddin Ahmed, the vice-chancellor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, said the university has instructed the students and staff to comply with the health guidelines to prevent contracting the virus.
"We will observe the trend of the virus but we will not take any decision rapidly that might be harmful to the students," he added.
Only 4% secondary school students fully vaccinated
As of Thursday, the government has administered the first dose of vaccine to around 33% of the secondary-level students aged 12-17 years while only 4% of the students have received both doses of the vaccine.
Vaccination of school students aged between 12 and 17 started on 1 November last year. Initially, vaccination was being administered at only eight centres in Dhaka but now students are getting the vaccines at 11 centres in the capital as well as at the district level.
So far, 39,56,100 students have received the first dose of the vaccine and 5,04,886 have received both doses. As many as 1,58,566 students across the country took the first dose of the vaccine on Monday. Of these, 9,044 students were from Dhaka city.
Meanwhile, as Covid-19 infections are again on the rise in the country, a recent inter-ministerial meeting urged the education ministry to speed up the process of vaccinating all the students before the Omicron variant spreads more widely.
Professor Dr Golam Faruk, director-general of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS that they are serious about students' vaccination, adding that all teachers and guardians have been asked to act proactively to make sure that all students are vaccinated.