Bangladesh Opts for Restricted Reopening of Offices and Transport, Covid-19 Tally Crosses 40,000-mark

Bangladesh on Thursday issued an order allowing restricted reopening of the offices and transport services from May 31 despite fears of the intensified coronavirus onslaughts as the country recorded 2029 new COVID-19 cases - the highest number of infections in a single day.

Bangladesh first declared a nationwide holiday from March 26 to April 4 while the country confirmed the first coronavirus death on March 18, ten days after the detection of the first three COVID-19 cases.

Since its enforcement on March 26, coinciding with the Independence Day anniversary, the shutdown was extended in six phases until May 30.

"All government/semi-government, autonomous and private offices will remain open in a limited scale under their own management (from May 31)," read the Cabinet division order.

But the order exempted "vulnerable people, sick employees and pregnant women" from attending offices and directed that all meetings would be held through virtual media, debarring physical presence of people in such conferences unless the situation demanded so in extraordinary cases.

The government also allowed "restricted reopening" of public transport services like passenger buses, trains and ferries with "limited number of passengers" who must wear masks while operators were asked to strictly follow the health directives against COVID-19.

But people's movement from one district to another will be controlled strictly and monitored through security check posts at the entrance and exit points of the each of the country's 64 districts.

The private aviation operators, however, were allowed to restore flight services under their own management maintaining the health guidelines.

The order came nearly a week after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the reopening appeared inevitable to keep operative Bangladesh's economic activities despite the pandemic.

Bangladesh will resume domestic flight operations partially from June 1.

"Flights will be limited to Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Syedpur," Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshall M Mafidur Rahman was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reported 15 deaths in the last 24 hours and 2,029 new coronavirus cases - the highest number of infections in a single day in the country.

DGHS Additional Director General Nasima Sultana said the fresh cases were found after 9,310 samples were tested in 49 labs across the country. Expert have called for expanding testing facilities.

With the latest figures, the country's coronavirus death toll has risen to 559 and the total confirmed cases as of Thursday surpassed the 40,000-mark, climbing to 40,321.

So far 8,425 people have made full recovery after being infected by the novel coronavirus.

The existing ban on public gatherings and people's movement without urgent necessity from 8pm to 6am would remain enforced and the violation of the order would be treated as a punishable offence.

The shops would remain open from 8 am to 4 pm, strictly enforcing social and physical distancing and maintaining other health guidelines.