The government has asked public and private organisations not to provide services to people without a face covering as it aims to curb a possible second wave of Covid-19.
A “no mask, no service” policy will be implemented and all organisations will be monitored because the government made masks mandatory in all institutions, markets, schools, and social and religious gatherings.
The directives came yesterday during a virtual cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The PM joined the meeting from the Gono Bhaban and the cabinet members from secretariat.
“No one will be allowed to enter government offices without a mask. There will be large cautionary posters at the entrance of offices,” Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told journalists after the meeting.
“We’ve given the instructions… to all levels including social, organisations and formal institutions,” he said.
The instructions came amid repeated calls from the PM to always wear face masks outdoors. She also stressed this at the last cabinet meeting on October 19.
Yesterday, she asked the authorities concerned to be prepared to tackle the possible second wave of Covid-19 this winter.
The National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC), formed to advise the government on its coronavirus response, urged the government to prepare a roadmap and take all-out preparations for the second wave.
Notwithstanding this, there is a growing unwillingness among the people to wear face masks as the number of people infected with the deadly virus inches towards 4 lakh. The reported Covid-19 deaths reached 5,803 yesterday.
Countries across Europe are seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases after successfully slowing outbreaks earlier this year.
Most of the European countries are reporting more new cases each day now than they were during the first wave earlier this year, according to global news agencies.
A second wave, in the context of a viral pandemic, does not have a formal scientific definition or a distinctly defined stage. It is generally considered as a stage when an outbreak appears to recede almost entirely before returning again. In order to say that one wave has ended, the virus has to be brought under control and cases have to fall substantially.
“Refusal to wear masks is unacceptable. Masks must be used in all institutions, haats, markets, shopping malls, schools, and social and religious gatherings. We have made it mandatory,” the cabinet secretary said.
Anwarul said the Islamic Foundation has been instructed to ask the imams of mosques to spread the message after prayers at least twice a day.
The issue of face masks was discussed when the health ministry informed the cabinet about the steps it had taken during the pandemic.
When his attention was drawn to packed mass transports, he said, “We agree. Let’s observe the scenario of the second wave and then we’ll set our next course of action.”
The cabinet secretary said he will sit with secretaries of roads and highways, shipping and railways in a couple of days to discuss the matter.
Contacted, Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the NTAC, said, “We welcome this announcement. However, the question is why this announcement was not made before.
“Previously, we observed a lack in implementation [of the directives]. This announcement is very much appropriate and the implementation must be ensured.”
About the vaccine for Covid-19, the cabinet secretary said the government has taken the steps necessary to get the shots.
“There are government and private initiatives. We hope to get the vaccine at the first stage,” he said.
Twenty-three people have died from Covid-19 in the country in the 24 hours preceding 8:00am yesterday, according to a press release issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
With this, the total number of deaths rose to 5,803, which is 1.46 percent of all confirmed cases.
Besides, 1,308 people tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the total number of people infected to 3,98,815.
With this, Bangladesh is now the country with the 18th highest number of confirmed cases, according to the worldometers.info.
Following 11,757 tests, yesterday’s positivity rate was 11.78 percent. With this, the overall positivity rate stood at 17.67 percent.
Meanwhile, 1,544 Covid-19 patients recovered in the 24 hours, raising the total number of recoveries to 3,15,107. This is around 79.01 percent of all confirmed cases.
Among the 23 deceased, 19 were male. All of them died in hospitals. One was aged between 31 and 40 years, three were between 41 and 50, three others between 51 and 60, and 16 above 60.
One each was from Rangpur, Khulna, Rajshahi and Chattogram divisions while 19 were from Dhaka.
So far, Dhaka division accounted for 51.61 percent of all the deaths due to Covid-19.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN REPRESSION BILL
Yesterday, the cabinet also gave the final approval to the draft of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to enact a law in parliament repealing a recent ordinance promulgated to allow death penalty alongside life term imprisonment as punishment for rape.
However, the measures that have been taken under the ordinance will remain valid.
The Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, was promulgated as parliament was not in session at that time, Khandker Anwarul Islam.
“If an ordinance is promulgated in the absence of a parliament session, it is to place the ordinance in parliament on the very first day of the next session,” he said, adding that the next session will be held on November 8.
The cabinet secretary said that President Abdul Hamid will address the special session of parliament scheduled to mark Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
It was supposed to be held on March 22 but got postponed due to the pandemic.
Anwarul said the cabinet also discussed the progress of construction of the Padma bridge.
The 34th span has already been installed. Seven more spans are ready and will be set up by January, he added.