Minister Zahid Maleque took part in a regular press briefing of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday. During the online media briefing, the minister answered several queries from journalists.
Ready-made garment industry workers were allowed to rush into the capital while public transportation is suspended until April 11 anda shutdown is in effect over the whole country. You claim that measures have been taken so that the situation does not deteriorate. Does the garment workers' exodus intensify the concern?
Yes, this intensifies the concern. Therefore, the BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association] and BKMEA [Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association] asked the factories to close and pay the workers' salaries. We came to know of this yesterday via the media. We hope this will not reoccur. A mass exodus certainly speeds up infections.
Can they [BGMEA, BKMEA] shrug off the responsibility? How did they take the decision bypassing you?
They are not under the health ministry. They did not feel it necessary to consult with us. However, we think that it was not appropriate.
Currently the Communicable Diseases Law is in effect which gives you the utmost power to implement the provisions. You, as the head of the National Committee to Curb Coronavirus' Spread, could have taken action against both BGMEA and BKMEA to stop the Dhaka-bound exodus. Why did you remain inactive?
We informed numerous agencies as soon as we came to know about the issue. We think therefore they fell back on reopening the factories at this moment. We are considering the issue as seriously as you are.
What role did the national committee play here?
The factories stopped as the committee did intervene. Yes, you can say that the textile factories did not consult with us while resuming their operations.
Now, how will the workers go back from Dhaka?
I am not able to answer that.
The commerce minister held a meeting with BGMEA and BKMEA Thursday and said there was no instruction about factory closures. That production units could remain operational having taken precautionary measures. The minister is a part of the government. How did they get permission to run the factories even after the government announced general holidays?
Reopening or closing factories are issues of the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industries, the health ministry has no business here.
What is the business of the national committee then?
As you see it. We are ensuring healthcare, quarantine and testing. We are covering health-related issues. Other ministries are responsible for the lockdown or suspension of transportation.
You passed the Communicable Disease Act 2018 making the director-general of the health directorate its chief. This individual is responsible for any disaster, epidemic and fatality. However, the position is at ten on the national committee. How can a director-general be held responsible when provided too little power?
We will consider changes regarding this if required.
The general holiday will end on April 11. What are you planning next and what kind of advice are you giving to other ministries?
We will discuss it. We will take a better decision so that things do not go wrong again.