The government has decided to allow e-commerce companies and their affiliated restaurants to remain open till 10pm to keep business activities through e-commerce continue to ensure an uninterrupted supply of daily necessities during lockdown.
Besides, delivery men, and individuals and vehicles engaged in the transport of e-commerce goods will be able to move normally until midnight.
In this regard, the commerce ministry on Tuesday sent a letter to the Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet Division, deputy commissioners and other government offices concerned.
Commerce ministry officials said the ministry has come up with the decision considering that traders as well as e-commerce companies have been incurring losses as shops and restaurants have to close at 4pm owing to the lockdown.
Besides, due to the government-imposed restrictions on movement, delivery men also were willing to go out after 6pm, they added.
Mentioning that the decision has been taken to ensure uninterrupted supply of daily necessities to the people during the lockdown and keep up business activities as much as possible, Md Hafizur Rahman, head of the National Digital Commerce Cell and director general of the WTO Cell of the commerce ministry, told The Business Standard, "We are trying to connect e-commerce companies with small shops so that small traders can sell their products through e-commerce platforms even if the market or shop is closed."
In this case, shopkeepers will be able to connect directly with the e-commerce companies. And if anyone feels it necessary, they can use any agent in the middle, he added.
"A letter has already been sent to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) to connect small shopkeepers with e-commerce. Hopefully, e-commerce companies will take an initiative to this end soon," he added.
E-CAB President Shomi Kaiser told TBS, "We are in talks with the Shop Owners Association to make sure small shopkeepers can sell their products through e-commerce companies and reach buyers during the lockdown. Hopefully, this will start very soon."
The commerce ministry said e-commerce companies may issue identification stickers or identity cards with serial number and logo of the e-CAB to delivery men and persons engaged in the transportation of goods at night.
With regard to keeping restaurants open, the ministry said kitchens of restaurants affiliated with e-commerce companies can be kept open from 6am to 10pm. In this case, only takeaway services will be allowed, meaning dine-in will not be allowed at eateries.
Institutions associated with the food delivery will be asked to submit the list of restaurants they work with to the deputy commissioner concerned for supervision.
According to e-CAB, the popularity of e-commerce in Bangladesh has been on the rise since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country in March last year.
Compared to 2019, the growth of online business last year was about 70-80%. The size of the e-commerce market in Bangladesh has exceeded Tk6,000 crore. By 2023, it is expected to reach Tk25,000 crore ($3 billion), according to the German-based research firm Statista.