Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said the government has a plan to allow the reopening of some export-oriented industries on a limited scale if the guidelines on health and safety are properly maintained and protective measures taken for their workers.
"It's true the month of Ramadan is approaching. We can't keep everything (industries) shut down. We'll have to reopen some areas gradually," she said while exchanging views with the local administration of Gazipur district through a videoconference from Ganobhaban.
The Prime Minister talked to the government officials and public representatives of eight districts –-four under Dhaka division and four under Mymensingh division-- over the novel coronavirus.
The eight districts are Kishoreganj, Tangail, Gazipur and Manikganj under Dhaka division, and Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur and Netrakona--- under Mymensingh Division.
Sheikh Hasina, however, expressed doubt whether the factories should be reopened on April 24-25 next in Gazipur as the coronavirus spreading in the district.
"If they want to reopen their industries or restart operation, and if they can engage the workers in operation following the health guidelines, keep them protected and arrange their accommodation in safe places -- many industries have their own places to arrange this accommodation -- then some industries will could be reopened," she said.
The Prime Minister said the factory authorities will have to arrange transportation for the workers to carry them to the work stations this time as the workers recently suffered a lot as some factories asked them to join work early this month. "It was a wrong decision."
"If they want to bring back the workers, they'll have to arrange transportation, accommodation and protection for them. If so, then they can reopen their factories," she said adding that a limited number of workers can join the work.
Sheikh Hasina directed the district administration to discuss with those who want to reopen their factories accepting those conditions.
She said now the government is to keep open some pharmaceutical factories and some other industries that are producing personal protection equipment (PPEs).
The Prime Minister's remarks over industries came when Deputy Commissioner of Gazipur SM Tarikul Islam drew her attention saying that the BGMEA president has recently sought BRTC buses to carry workers from several districts to their work stations as many factories will be reopened on April 26 next.
Superintendent of Police (SP) of Gazipur Shamsunnahar PPM said the owners of many factories have not paid the wages of workers for March yet, which is a big barrier to maintaining social distancing in Gazipur.
The Prime Minister proposed that Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Memorial KPJ Specialised Hospital, which was named after her mother and located in Gazipur, can be used for coronavirus patients.
She said some 30 staff, including doctors and nurses of this 500-bed hospital, got infected with Coronavirus. "So, the hospital can be used for coronavirus patients following discussions of the authorities of the hospital."
While talking to the administration and public representatives of Kishoreganj, the Prime Minister put emphasis on setting up a modern rice mill in Kishoreganj to ensure greater benefits for farmers from the bumper production of paddy in the Haor region.
She said the government will procure a total of 21 lakh metric tons food grains this season across the country. Of the amount, the government will purchase 8 lakh metric tons of paddy, 10 lakh metric tons of rice, 2.20 lakh metric tons of atap (sunned) rice and 80,000 metric tons of wheat.
During the views-exchange with the officials and people of Netrakona, Hasina said the government is now preparing a list to provide the needy people with another 50 lakh ration cards alongside the existing 50 lakh so that they can purchase the rice at a subsidized rate of Tk 10 per kg.
Hasina asked the field administration and local people concerned to enlist the names of the needy people properly not including those who are already enjoying any other social safety-net facilities.
While talking to the administration and representatives of Mymensingh, she asked the authorities concerned to arrange training for physicians, nurses and other health workers who deal the coronavirus patients for keeping them and their families protected.
The Prime Minister also asked them to strengthen measures for proper transportation, accommodation for physicians, nurses and other health workers. She suggested using minibuses and microbuses to carry the health workers.
Hasina urged the local MPs and other public representatives to pay attention to the protection of physicians, nurses and other health workers in their respective areas.
Conducted by PM's Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, the programme was also attended by Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam, PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim, PMO Secretary Md Tofazzel Hossain Miah and other high officials were present.