Bangladesh extends lockdown till May 16

Dhaka: Bangladesh on Monday extended ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 16 to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bangladesh clamped a week-long nationwide lockdown on April 5, suspending public transport and shutting markets to combat the surge in Coronavirus cases in the country. The restrictions were later extended till April 28, then till May 5.

"The Cabinet has decided to further extend the lockdown till May 16," Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told a media briefing here.

Islam said inter-district bus, train and ferry services would remain suspended until that timeline but public transports would be allowed to operate within cities maintaining health guidelines after May 5, when the latest round of the lockdown was scheduled to end.

At the same time, the government will also monitor shopping centres and malls for strict compliance to health safety guidelines, put in place to contain COVID-19 spread, he said. If a shopping place is found to be failing to strictly enforce the safety rules, it will be shut down if needed, Islam said.

In face of growing demands, the government had granted permission for reopening shops and malls across the country from April 25, amid lockdown.

On April 26, Bangladesh closed its border with India for two weeks in view of the sharp increase in the Coronavirus cases in the neighbouring country.

On Monday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said that the borders would remain closed until further order.

Health officials on Monday reported 65 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the country's toll to 11,644. At least 1,739 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people infected with the virus to 7,63,682.

A health ministry spokesman said that both the statistics suggested the infection rate to have come down slightly in the past few days but "we fear the situation could be worse again if the health guidelines are not strictly maintained ahead and during the Eid festival".

Last week, Bangladesh recorded the lowest single-day death toll since April 6.

"There is no room for complacency...the bad situation can return anytime coinciding with the Eid festival later this month," Directorate of Health Services (DGHS) spokesman Dr Nazmul Islam told the media. According to the latest count, the COVID-19 infection rate stood at 8.95 per cent on Monday while the figure shot up to 23.40 per cent on April 5.

The health minister said Bangladesh was expecting the arrival of 0.5 million doses of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines by May 10.

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