Zia Choudhury and Joynal Abedin Shishir::
After repeated urges from businessmen and entrepreneurs, the government has finally decided to reopen all shopping malls and markets across the country from Sunday, 25 April.
In a gazette notification on Friday, the Cabinet Division said the decision has been taken considering the livelihood of people. Shops at malls will remain open from 10am to 5pm daily, but the authorities will take legal actions if they do not maintain hygiene rules properly.
Meanwhile, sources at the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges said there is also a possibility of resuming public transport from 29 April.
Domestic flights – except to and from Cox’s Bazar – already resumed on 21 April.
State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain has said no strict lockdown will be imposed after 28 April in the country.
“The decision has been made after considering the matter of life and livelihood of thousands of people,” he added.
The state minister also hinted that the details about resuming public transport and services may be announced on 28 April.
“Restrictions on movement will be relaxed gradually, but we will ensure the implementation of a ‘no mask, no service’ policy everywhere,” the state minister told The Business Standard.
He further said, “Law enforcement agencies will ensure that everyone visiting markets wear masks.”
Commenting on the latest government decisions, experts said Bangladesh is heading towards a half-hearted lockdown, which may not be effective in controlling the Covid-19 infections.
Professor Dr Mohammad Azizur Rahman, a respiratory medicine specialist, told TBS that the current lockdown probably has caused a decrease in Covid-19 infections and death tolls.
“The government’s latest decision to ease the lockdown may push up the economy, but at the same time it might increase the Covid-19 infection rate. If that happens, the half-hearted lockdown would not be of any help,” he opined.
After the decision of opening the markets from Sunday, the roadside vendors at different places of the city started to open their shops amid the ongoing strict lockdown on Friday.
Upon visiting Karwan Bazar, Banglamotor, Shahbagh, National Press Club, Paltan intersection and some other areas in the capital, very few people were seen on the roads in the morning. Policemen were also rarely checking people for passes at different checkpoints.
Traders of the RDA Market and New Market in Rajshahi city also opened their shops without the administration’s permission on Friday.
But, the number of people roaming in the alleys and streets increased before and after the Jumma prayers. Fewer devotees were seen at the Baitul Mukarram compared to a regular Friday. A large number of police was deployed there to tackle any untoward situation.