The government has decided to implement a "No Mask, No Service" policy at all offices to curb further spread of Covid-19.
Under the policy, the government and private offices will not serve anyone who is not wearing a mask.
Private offices will also come under inspection to make sure that the policy is being pursued.
Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam announced the government decision at a press conference after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday.
Welcoming the government move, health experts have said Covid-19 vaccine is a long way from being available to all while its proof of effectiveness is also still uncertain.
Therefore, the only alternative to keep the coronavirus at bay is to wear masks, opined the experts.
The Cabinet meeting was informed about the steps taken by the health ministry to combat the coronavirus infection.
Responding to a question while briefing reporters on the issue, Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul said the government has now taken a tough stance on mask wearing and no one will be allowed to enter offices without masks.
Welcoming the move, Prof Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard (TBS), "No mask, no service" is a very good policy on the part of the government.
He said not only the government and non-government offices, but also shop owners – small or big – need to adopt a similar "No mask no sell" policy.
Prof Nazrul said now everyone is busy having vaccines, but there are doubts about how effective the vaccine will be.
He asked all to wear masks even after being vaccinated. "The mask should be made a part of our clothes."
The physician stressed the need for making people aware of the necessity of masks, suggesting that the government should provide masks to the people, if necessary.
There should be no laxity over the current decline in Covid-19 infection rate as well as death rate, he said, adding that before the second wave of Covid hits, hospitals need to be provided with enough oxygen and high-flow nasal calluna, besides ensuring the mandatory mask wearing.
Prof Sayedur Rahman, chairman, Department of Pharmacology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told TBS the vaccines that are likely to hit the market in the first phase will give only 50%-60% protection.
It will take time for the vaccine to come to Bangladesh, he said, adding that only 20% of the countrymen will get it primarily while the rest 80% won't.
"It is not possible to vaccinate 17 core people at a time. But we have a good alternative that is using a mask which can give 80% protection against the virus."
Prof Sayedur observed that, "If everyone wears masks, they will not be disappointed even if they do not get the vaccine at first phase."
"So, it is a must to raise awareness among people about the benefits of putting on a mask and following health regulations."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged all to follow the health guidelines and use face masks in public places and gatherings, aiming to prevent the possible second wave of the pandemic in Bangladesh.
"We should all wear masks ... without wearing masks, no one should go to public places, gatherings, mosques and other festivals, including the ongoing Durga Puja, under any circumstances,'' she said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing face masks to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
CDC says the masks help prevent the spread of the virus from those who are pre-symptomatic and also asymptomatic.
Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), recently said the study found that 80% of the country's Covid-19 patients were asymptomatic.
"If someone has symptoms, we identify them and take them in isolation. But we don't consider those who have no symptoms. So, no matter who is infected and who is not, everyone should wear a mask and wear it properly," said Prof Meerjady.
"We are not in the habit of putting on masks. It's suffocating. But if you do not want to be infected with Covid-19, there is no alternative to mask."
Dr Habibur Rahman, spokesperson for DGHS, told The Business Standard that they are emphasising the use of masks to deal with the second wave of the virus.
He said the committees formed and are being headed by the commissioners and UNOs at the divisional, district and upazila levels have already been instructed to monitor the situation.
Mosques, temples or other religious places have also been asked to encourage the worshipers to use masks through sermons, he said, adding that mobile courts have received instruction to oversee the wearing of masks.
Besides, the Islamic Foundation has been instructed to ask the imams of the mosques for spreading the message after prayers at least twice a day that wearing masks is a government order.