Reopening businesses puts people at high risk: Health minister
Referring to experts’ projections, he said Covid-19 infections will rise in May across the country
Health Minister Zahid Maleque thinks reopening businesses, restaurants and garment factories has put people at a high risk of contracting Covid-19.
In a letter to Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, he expressed his concerns that the decision to reopen those establishments was wrong.
Referring to experts' projections, he said infections will rise in May across the country.
The virus may spread widely in densely-populated cities and industrial areas as movement of people on the streets increased after the shutdown was relaxed, Zahid wrote in the letter on April 30.
He said factories were supposed to be opened in phases but this did not happen, causing thousands of workers to come to virus hotspots, including Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur.
Reopening businesses was necessary to prevent an economic disaster but this has raised the risk of infections, the minister said.
Zahid added that it will be almost impossible to isolate and treat people if the virus spread widely.
The commerce minister told The Business Standard on Monday the factories have been asked to follow the health guidelines to the utmost, and the administration is working to ensure that.
"Factories were supposed to reopen in five phases so that all workers did not return at the same time. Some did accordingly and introduced two work shifts. However, there were anomalies in some cases too," he said.
"We should all pay attention to where social distancing and health guidelines are not being followed," he continued.
Zahid wrote in his letter that the infection rate was relatively low in Bangladesh because people have become more aware and the shutdown is in effect.
He said a more effective implementation of social distancing is expected to keep our infection rate at a tolerable level before reducing it gradually.
The health minister asked the commerce minister to personally intervene in a number of matters, such as creating stricter measures to make apparel workers follow the health guidelines; keeping Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur isolated; and ensuring social distancing in the three districts that host 75 percent of the total cases.
Commerce ministry officials said the health minister's letter was forwarded to the health secretary so that required measures are taken. They said the ministry is preparing to write to business associations, asking them to ensure that social distancing and health guidelines are strictly followed in factories and businesses.