Amid the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, shops in Dhaka have been shutting down one after another, prompting public concerns if they will be able to buy daily essentials, such as food and medicine, in the upcoming days.
Already many groceries and even roadside tea stalls have been shut down, giving almost an unusual look to the city.
Within a few days, many other groceries may also halt business as shopkeepers said the presence of customers is thinning every day.
"Companies are ready to supply us with all types of products but we are not placing any order because of a lower customer presence," said Sakib Hossain, a seller at Julhas Store at Paltan in the capital.
Amid such a situation, the people are also concerned about whether they will get any government aid if their areas are locked down due to the coronavirus.
Food and commerce ministries and the disaster management department, however, assured the citizens of government assistance if necessary. They claimed that they have an enough stock of food grains.
They said they are ready to provide the food to any area if they receive instructions from the government high-ups.
The Business Standard yesterday visited a number of markets in the capital but found no shortage in the supply of daily commodities.
Even then, people were buying products in excess for the reserve.
A couple came in the Bengal Meat outlet on Dhanmondi Road 27 and bought 20kgs of beef.
Workers there said they will not be getting any more supplies before the lockdown. There were couple of broiler chickens, same number of local and Sonali chickens on display. The backroom freezer did not have anymore.
The chest freezer had about 40 kilos of different frozen cuts.
They are also coming under the lockdown, the outlet officials said.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Shop Owners' Association issued a directive, asking all shopping centres across the country, including Dhaka New Market and Bashundhara Shopping Mall, to be closed from March 25 to March 31.
Shop owners and market authorities have already informed all businesspersons about the decision.
But, food and medicine shops have been instructed to keep their sales on.
Salespersons at the Segunbagicha outlet of Agora, a leading chain shop of consumer goods in the capital, said their sales will remain open as usual. They claimed they have an adequate stock of products.
Mahmud, in-charge of the outlet, said they have set a daily purchase limit of rice, 10kgs per person, to cope with the people's buying spree.
"We want that everyone be able to buy daily essential products," he said.
Meanwhile, the food ministry said they have more than 14 lakh tonnes of rice and over three lakh tonnes of wheat in their stock at different warehouses countrywide.
Food Secretary Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum said if the government instructs them to distribute the grains in specific areas during the crisis period, they will execute it without any delay.
She however said they received no directives so far whether the food assistance would be given to the areas under lockdown.
She further informed The Business Standard that they are strengthening the open market sales of rice and flour in the country.
A commerce ministry official, wishing anonymity, said law enforcing agencies will monitor the locked-down areas so that shops of food products and medicine remain open.
The commerce ministry has kept on the sales of rice, lentil, sugar, onion on trucks through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh. The corporation's officials said the sales activities will be continued in the coming days too.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told a press briefing that the government would implement the "Ghore Fera Karma Shuchi" (returning home programme) for low-income people.
He also said the disaster management department would be assigned to provide necessary food and financial assistance to the people suffering due to job crisis.
Md Mohsin, the director general of the department, said they are all prepared to implement the government's all specific activities on the issue.
However, The Business Standard found no government assistance being given to the house that has been locked down at Mirpur's Tolarbagh area in the capital. The residents of the house were learnt to have been going out upon permission from police to collect food and other products.