Not heading back into lockdown: Quader


Dhaka, Nov 24: Transport Minister Obaidul Quader has ruled out the possibility of a full-scale lockdown in Bangladesh as the country is taking all-out preparations to face a possible second wave of Covid-19 infections.

“A full-scale virus lockdown isn’t possible in Bangladesh. What India did wasn’t very effective,” he told reporters at his ministry on Tuesday.

The government announced a ‘general holiday’ from March 26, a week after the country reported its first coronavirus death. The first cases were reported on March 8.

Economic activities came to a screeching halt, leaving millions of people jobless and pushing many below the poverty line. Eventually, the government lifted the restrictions and took steps to save the economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic.

Asked if a lockdown would be imposed, Quader, the number two man in the ruling Awami League, said it was not on the cards. “Some restrictions may be put in place but nothing of this sort (lockdown),” he said.

But Quader said people’s lives come first and the government would make “tough choices” considering the virus outbreak situation.

“Masks must be used, [and] that’s a tough decision … people will be fined if they don’t wear masks, the prime minister is very strict in this matter,” he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is monitoring the virus situation herself. “The government has preparations,” he said.

Bangladesh reported 2,419 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours until Monday, pushing up the tally to 449,760.

The country recorded 28 more Covid-19 deaths during the period, taking fatalities to 6,416 with a mortality rate of 1.43 percent. In the last seven days, 201 people lost their lives to Covid-19.

Prime Minister Hasina has been warning the people of a possible second Covid-19 wave and urging everyone to wear masks and properly follow health guidelines.

Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam on Monday said the administration would go tough on people who won’t wear masks.

The Prime Minister has asked the authorities concerned to carry out a larger campaign and force people to wear masks, he said.

The government has already implemented a ‘no mask, no service’ policy while mobile courts are being operated to ensure the use of masks.

Bangladesh has signed a deal for 30 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Monday said that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90 percent effective.