Photo: Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA Wire/dpa

DHAKA: Bangladesh imposed a nationwide lockdown Tuesday to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the wake of four deaths and at least 39 infections, reported Anadolu Agency.

Authorities declared a ban on passenger travel via water, rail and on domestic air routes from March 24 while all public transport on roads will be suspended from March 26 to stem the spread of virus, officially known as Covid-19.

“It was decided to lock down all public transport across the country from March 26 to April 4. Trucks, covered vans and vehicles carrying medicine, fuel and perishable items will remain out of the purview of the lockdown,” said Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.

He also warned people not to travel on any trucks or goods-laden vehicles.

“We have postponed all launch services (amid the coronavirus pandemic),” Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq confirmed to Anadolu Agency by phone.

Thousands of Bangladeshis prefer to travel daily by ferry and passenger boats, especially those in the country’s southern regions.

The Bangladesh Railway Authority has also suspended all local, commuter and mail train services across the country until further notice.

The government also decided to suspend all domestic commercial flights from midnight Tuesday until further notice as part of efforts to encourage people to stay home to contain the outbreak.

In addition, the Department of Immigration and Passports on Monday suspended new enrolments for both electronic and machine-readable passports until further notice while offering special arrangements for urgent cases.

The closure of all educational institutions in the country has been extended to April 9 from March 31 previously, the Ministry of Education said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s main exporting ready-made garment (RMG) sector is incurring a huge shortfall.

“Until today (March 24), orders of 649.30 million pieces of RMG products from 738 garment factories worth $2.4 billion have been cancelled,” Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told Anadolu Agency by phone.

In order to ensure the supply chain and sustainable market prices, the government on Tuesday also cancelled all leave and vacations for government officials under the Ministry of Commerce who are responsible for monitoring local markets.

Meanwhile, China has decided to help Bangladesh by sending Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and test kits amid a shortage in the country.

“The first batch of medical supplies, including 10,000 test kits, 10,000 (pieces of) PPE and 1,000 infrared thermometers will arrive in Dhaka from Kunming on March 26,” the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of China in Bangladesh said in a social media post.

Low-income workers in the capital Dhaka, however, have been leaving the city by various means amid a high risk of coronavirus infection following the ban on trains and other public transport services. 

Hundreds of such commuters were seen leaving the city Tuesday night, occupying the roofs of public buses and trucks in Dhaka’s business hub of Motijheel in violation of government instructions.

Global situation

The virus first emerged in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 198 countries and territories.

The global death toll from the virus exceeds 18,800 with over 422,600 confirmed cases.

Despite the rising number of cases, most people who get infected suffer mild symptoms and recover.

China, Italy, Iran and Spain continue to be the worst-affected countries. – Bernama