Lockdown lifted in Bangladesh despite pandemic’s rampage

Bangladesh has decided to lifet nationwide lockdowns, at a time when virus cases in the country are surging. Despite the fact that the administration has set out comprehensive plans for easing the lockdown, there are fears that the heavily populated country may experience a new contagion.

Lockdown lifted in Bangladesh

Bangladesh lifted its coronavirus lockdown Sunday, with millions heading back to work in densely populated cities and towns even as the country logged a record spike in deaths and new infections.

“The lockdown has been lifted and we are heading almost towards our regular life,” health department spokeswoman Nasima Sultana said, calling on those returning to work to wear masks and observe social distancing. The Bangladesh government has divided the areas into colours – red, yellow and green – based on the severity of the pandemic. Areas marked red will be under total lockdown.

Lockdown lifted in Bangladesh despite record cases

The lifting comes as Bangladesh — which on Friday took an emergency pandemic loan from the International Monetary Fund — reported its biggest daily jump in infections Sunday, with 2,545 new cases and a record 40 deaths.

In the crowded capital Dhaka, passengers piled into trains and traffic clogged up the streets as workers returned to their jobs after months of restrictions that have battered the economy.

Some wore gloves and masks as they headed to their offices, while others stood the recommended two feet apart as long queues formed outside bank branches.

Read more: Bangladeshi exports drown as pandemic hits cloth makers

At a ferry station in Barisal, south of the capital, there was a crush of passengers as people rushed to board vessels.

“I tried to avoid crowds when I walked to my office. But social distancing is impossible in Dhaka’s footpaths,” banker Badrul Islam told AFP.

Restrictions to curb the virus imposed on March 26 have been gradually eased in recent weeks, with only educational institutions remaining closed.

The country of 168 million has reported 47,151 infections and 650 deaths, although experts warn Bangladesh is not conducting enough testing and the actual toll is likely much higher.

Lockdown lifted in Bangladesh: Labourers welcome decision 

Some day labourers, who were badly hit by the lockdown, welcomed the decision.

“I hardly had three good meals in the past two months as I was jobless,” 58-year-old labourer Tota Miah told AFP.

Read more: Bangladesh economy in peril as US & Europe cancels billion dollars of orders

But one man queueing outside a bank in Dhaka, who asked to remain anonymous, slammed the move to open up as “too early” and “suicidal”.

Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director of leading Bangladesh think tank the Policy Research Institute also expressed caution, saying he feared “a much stronger surge in infections and associated deaths in the coming weeks.”

First Rohingya dies of coronavirus in Bangladesh

Meanwhile, a 71-year-old man has become the first Rohingya living in vast refugee camps in Bangladesh to die from the coronavirus, an official said Tuesday. The Rohingya is a Muslim community that originates in Burma and has been the subject of ethnic cleansing by the generals in Burma. It is often cited by the United Nations as being one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Health experts have long warned that the deadly virus could race through the vast network of settlements housing almost a million refugees in the country’s southeast.

“He died on May 31. But last night we got the confirmation that he died of COVID-19,” said Toha Bhuiyan, a senior health official in the Cox’s Bazar district.

The fatality was in Kutupalong, the largest of the camps, which is home to roughly 600,000 people. The man was among at least 29 Rohingya to have tested positive for the virus in the camps.

Read more: First Rohingya coronavirus casualty reported in Bangladesh

Bhuiyan said the victim died in an isolation centre run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders and was buried in the camp the same day.

Bangladesh administration has promised to spread awareness among the refugees interned in massive refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, with many health and human rights experts fearing the impact of the coronavirus to add on to and make life much more difficult for the minority, often cited as the most persecuted minority in the world.

Coronavirus in Bangladesh: the statistics thus far

As of today, the number of people infected by the Novel Coronavirus and suffering from the associated disease COVID-19 in Bangladesh has crossed 52,000. There have been 709 deaths associated with the disease. A statistic to take heart from is the fact that 11,120 Bangladeshis suffering from COVID-19 have recovered. 

COVID-19 associated lockdowns have caused a slowdown in the international economy, with experts saying that it will shrink by as much as 6% this year. Estimates of its recovery do not show it recovering before 2022.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk