General holiday may be announced again in ‘strict’ lockdown
Factories may be allowed to continue production, claim business leaders
A one-week public holiday may be announced from 14 April during the "strict" lockdown announced to prevent coronavirus infections, said Cabinet sources.
Depending on the situation, there are also plans to extend the holiday by another week and the Cabinet is working on that.
The Cabinet is now working on the restrictions, including closing public transports, to be imposed during the general holiday. All these will be clarified through a notification.
According to sources, the measures taken during last year's general holiday may be repeated this time.
A 10-day general holiday starting on 26 March last year was announced in the first phase. It was later extended several times, leading to a 66-day holiday.
Almost everything, except for emergency services, was closed initially but some sectors were later allowed to reopen, including export-oriented industries.
State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said on Friday all public and private offices, transports, and garment factories would be closed, except for emergency services, from 14 April.
He also said people would not be allowed to go out.
It is likely that the government would back off from the decision to keep export-oriented factories closed in response to demands raised by apparel factory owners.
Clothing factory owners say Bangladesh will lose purchase orders if factories remain closed. Moreover, infections will spread further if workers travel to their village homes during the holiday.
A meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam was held on Sunday. Among others, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association acting president Mohammed Abdus Salam and newly-elected President Faruque Hassan, and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association President Mohammad Ali Khokon were present.
After the meeting, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Vice-President Mohammad Hatem said the cabinet secretary had assured them that industries would remain open despite the strict lockdown.
He also said everything would be closed, except for industries, during the lockdown and people's movement would be strictly controlled.
"Banks may be closed, which will create problems in imports and exports. The cabinet secretary also assured that actions would be taken in this regard after analysing the situation," said Hatem.
BKMEA Vice-President Fazle Shamim Ehsan said factory owners had been asked to run production in strict compliance with hygiene rules.
"Factories have to provide workers, who live far away, with transport facilities. If a worker falls sick, the factory owner will take care of everything, including treatment. Suspected patients will be regularly tested at Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BGMEA) own PCR labs in Dhaka and Chattogram," he said.
But the government has not yet issued a notification in this regard. Until this report was filed, nothing was officially announced.
Earlier on Sunday, four apparel organisations, including BGMEA, BKMEA, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB), at a press conference demanded that garment and textile factories be allowed to operate during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the ongoing seven-day lockdown would continue till 13 April under the same restrictions.
He said long-haul passenger transports would remain closed until further notice and the strict lockdown will start on 14 April.
The cabinet division also said the same. It said the 18-point directive issued as per a 29 March circular of the Prime Minister's Office would remain in force.
The 4 and 8 April directives of the cabinet division would also remain in force till further notice.