The government has finally decided to enforce a seven-day strict lockdown from 14 April as Covid-19 infections keep surging with each passing day.
Except for emergency service providers, all government, semi-government and private organisations, shops and factories will remain shut during the weeklong lockdown, according to government policymakers.
The full lockdown announcement came on the fifth day of the current seven-day lockdown, which has been maintained halfheartedly, amid a debate on whether to impose a countrywide lockdown or not as Covid-19 cases and deaths have kept rising since March.
At this moment, there is no alternative to going for a strict lowdown to stem infections. But the government will have to pay attention to the people, who will be hit hard by the lockdown, experts say.
There is now a need for declaring a new stimulus package giving priority to cottage, micro and small industries so they can survive in the lockdown, they add.
They suggest making a prudent decision on the ongoing debate of whether to opt for life or livelihood.
Professor Muzaherul Huq, former adviser of the World Health Organisation for South East Asia, said, "I think the government's first responsibility is to save lives and then think of livelihoods."
Rizwan Rahman, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, thinks nothing below a curfew-styled lockdown will curb the pandemic. It is extremely difficult to contain people and make them abide by laws.
"If we consider life is more important than the economy, a strict lockdown with the entire law enforcement on the streets is necessary. As a business community representative, I know it will be a huge blow for the economy but that cannot be more important than life," he added.
"Traders would say people will starve to death, but can anyone show an example of a single death from hunger during this pandemic?" he said.
Another stimulus package needs to be announced in the lockdown, focusing on cottage, micro and small industries, Rizwan said.
The Covid infections and deaths have been on the rise for the past month. And, people's negligence and indifference are rising as well.
In this situation, the government has announced stricter curbing measures in the form of the new seven-day lockdown.
Talking about the new lockdown, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain on Friday told The Business Standard, "No one will be allowed to move from one place to another [without proper cause].
He also said the army will not be deployed.
This time, no vehicles will be allowed to run. RMG and all other factories will remain shut. A gazette notification with detailed guidelines will be issued soon, the state minister added.
Earlier on the day, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader at a news briefing had revealed that the government was considering a stricter approach in lockdown as the Covid-19 infection had taken a terrible turn in the country.
There does not seem to be any change in public behaviour during the ongoing pandemic-led lockdown. "The rate of infection and death is increasing by leaps and bounds with the growing neglect and indifference of the people," he said.
A seven-day lockdown has been underway in the country since last Monday but in a relaxed mood. The weeklong stay-at-home order was poised to peter out amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases and fatalities as it seemingly collapsed in the face of protests by people over livelihoods.
The government decided to permit markets and shopping malls to open from Friday on a limited scale.
Earlier on Wednesday, the authorities had also resumed public transport services in the cities from 6am to 6pm to ease office-goers' suffering. The Ekushey Book Fair is running too.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hinted at stricter measures to curb Covid infections.
Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19 recommended at least a two-week complete lockdown to tackle the worsening coronavirus infection after its 30th meeting on Thursday night.
The committee said the infection rate is increasing as the restrictions are not being followed properly during the ongoing lockdown. Restrictions need to be followed strictly.
The committee suggested that the full lockdown decision can be reviewed at the end of two weeks, considering the rate of infections. Experts say to rein in virus transmission, the public movement must be stopped for 21 days – seven days more than the coronavirus incubation period of 14 days.
The government initially declared a 10-day general holiday, from 26 March to 4 April last year, two weeks after the country reported its first positive case of the novel coronavirus.
After several extensions, all government and private offices reopened on 31 May on a limited scale, complying with the instructions of the Health Services Division. In phases, all offices opened but educational institutions are still closed.