Bangladesh Reopens Offices, Transport Services amid Spike in Coronavirus Cases

Traffic jams returned on Dhaka streets as Bangladesh on Sunday reopened offices and transport services in a restricted manner after two months even as the country recorded 40 more coronavirus deaths, the highest number of fatalities in a single day.

The death toll due to the coronavirus climbed to 650 while the positive cases rose to 47,153 after 2,545 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest in a single day, recorded on Sunday, health authorities said.

As the country reopened offices and resumed transport services despite a spike in new coronavirus cases, Ruling Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport Minister Obaidul Qader warned that "slightest negligence on the part of anyone could be disastrous during the crisis".

He urged people to make every step very cautiously as the government and private offices and public transports resumed in a 'limited scale' after a protracted nationwide shutdown enforced on March 26.

A government order three days ago asked government and private offices to open with limited physical presence of employees and resume state-run railway and private ferry services strictly maintaining health guidelines.

Bangladesh first declared a nation-wide 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.

The traffic jams returned on Dhaka streets on Sunday and the ferries were also seen overcrowded, raising speculations about compliance of health guidelines.

Railway officials said they have resumed train services initially running eight inter-city trains.

Ferry operators in Dhaka's main Sadarghat terminal said disinfectant tunnels have been installed through which passengers would enter the terminal and they were accommodated on marked seats to maintain social distancing.

The government, meanwhile, reset bus fare across the country, increasing it by 60 per cent issuing an order saying the new rate would be applicable during the COVID-19 crisis period and "the previous rate would be reinstated once the crisis is over".

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said that the reopening appeared inevitable to keep operative Bangladesh's economic activities despite the pandemic.