Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said her government was prepared to tackle any “tough situation” in view of the global coronavirus pandemic and simultaneously expressed her firm determination to win the war against the deadly virus.
“Uncertainty now gripped the entire world (due to COVID-19) but our government is prepared to face any tough situation,” she said in her nationwide address on the eve of the Independence and National Day 2020 this evening.
The premier added: “We triumphed in the 1971 Liberation War by combating enemies shoulder to shoulder . . . facing this deadly disease is another war.”
Sheikh Hasina said staying indoors at home was the main means to win the war against COVID-19 adding “your awareness will keep you, your family and the people of the country protected”.
“Stay indoors in your respective homes, keep well, healthy and safe, may Allah the great help us,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said preventing people from being infected with the virus was now her government’s “topmost priority” as she detailed the series of nationwide steps to prevent the spread of the diseases adding “I, myself, kept a watch on the situation round the clock”.
She said disasters often appear to test humanity in people and this is the time for extending help to each other to manifest one’s humanity and urged all to be tolerant and sensitive.
“This is a time for practicing austerity. don’t buy anything beyond minimal necessity. Do not stockpile goods. Give scopes to people with limited income to purchase their essentials,” Sheikh Hasina said.
The premier simultaneously asked businessmen not to take advantage of the crisis saying arrangements were afoot for monitoring markets everywhere while currently there was no shortage of goods in the market.
“The supply chains (of products) in the country and with outside world remain intact. So don’t hike the prices of the essential goods irrationally and increase the sufferings of the people,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the country was currently self-reliant in food as sufficient grains were now stored in government warehouses, private mills and in the farmers homes.
Moreover, she said, the country this year witnessed bumper production of transplantation Aman (T-Aman) and the volume of food grains stock is over 17 lakh tonnes in government warehouses alone.
“The country witnessed bumper production of potato, onion, chilli and wheat this season as well,” she said but urged farmers to keep no land fallow.
“It’s my request to my peasant brothers not to keep unutilized any land, and produce more food grains,” she said.
In her 23-minute speech, the premier said the Bengalis are a brave nation which tackled various disasters and crisis together in the past while being a government of the people “we always stay beside them”.
“With united efforts of all we’ll also be victorious in this war against the coronavirus Insha Allah.”
The PM said history suggests that disaster hits the national life at different ages and time but human beings had overcome those crises through their united efforts while “the mankind earlier prevented epidemics like plague, small pox and cholera”.
But, she said, unlike the closely knitted global society of the present time, the world was not that much closely connected during those epidemics as the people in those days were not used to travel in huge number from one place to another.
“The coronavirus, therefore, spread all over the world in such a quick time . . . but science and technology has immensely advanced by now. The world community will definitely overcome the disaster soon with united efforts of all,” the premier said.
Sheikh Hasina said due to the situation were passing days in a sort of panic and anxiety for their near and dear ones at home and abroad.
“I can realize the mental state of all. But, we have to face the situation with patience and bravery in such a critical time,” she said.
The premier urged all to obey advises of health experts “word to word” to prevent the virus and particularly “avoid public gatherings as much as possible”.
The premier called upon those who returned home from the coronavirus-affected countries to properly follow the directives t including quarantine and isolation at home.
“I request the brothers and sisters who returned home from the coronavirus-hit countries . . . stay isolated only for 14 days for the sake of your family, neighbours and above all for saving lives of the countrymen,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina called upon the Muslims as well as the people of other faiths to offer prayers at home.
The PM said the IEDCR by now opened hotline numbers aiming to protect the people from the infection of coronavirus.
She said Society of Doctors opened as well 500 helpline numbers as well and suggested people to call these numbers “if any COVID-19 symptom emerges”.
Sheikh Hasina said the government launched a massive anti-COVID-19 campaign since January while a national committee headed by the health minister was also working to provide necessary directions and take pragmatic measures for combating the virus in the country.
Apart from it, she said, committees were formed at city-corporation, municipality, district, upazila and union-levels for prevention of the disease.
Sheikh Hasina said six hospitals were prepared in Dhaka for coronavirus patients while arrangements were underway to treat coronavirus patients in five more hospitals in the capital and separate beds have been prepared for such patients in district and upazila-level hospitals.
The premier said measures have been taken to keep all the passengers arriving from abroad from March 19 in compulsory quarantine under the army.
“Ashkona Haji Camp and Ijtema Maidan at Tongi are being run for quarantine under the supervision of the army,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government has already stopped the on-arrival visa and Bangladesh missions abroad have been asked not to grant visas to any foreign national.
The PM said the health workers must play the most important role in providing healthcare services to the infected people.
“Sufficient equipment has been provided for their safety and there is enough stock of equipment including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),” she said.
In this connection, she called upon all concerned not to be misguided in this regard, saying that the highest priority is being given to health workers’ safety.
Sheikh Hasina said there was a stock of 13 thousand test kits till yesterday and as many numbers of kits will reach the country soon.
She said there are eight testing machines in Dhaka, while the work is underway to set up coronavirus testing laboratories in seven other divisions.
The PM extended her sincere thanks to health workers, members of law enforcement agencies, armed forces and administration for making united efforts in containing the spread of the virus.
Sheikh Hasina said the awareness campaign on coronavirus has been strengthened in radio-television and newspapers and social media. “Leaflets are being distributed at district and upazila levels,” she said.
In this connection, the prime minister urged all to refrain from spreading rumours, warning that actions will be taken against those who would be found involved in it.
The premier said since Mar 17, all schools, colleges and coaching centers have been kept shut down and Higher Secondary Examinations have been postponed.
She said all tourist and amusement centers were also closed and a ban has been slapped on every political, social and religious gathering.
“From tomorrow (March 26) to April 4, all government and private offices will remain closed,” she said.
“However, emergency services, including hospitals, kitchen markets, food and medicine shops will remain open,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina said since last night, operation of passenger trains, vessels and domestic flights remained suspended. “The Bangladesh Bank will keep banking services on a limited scale,” she said.
The PM said from Mar 24, maintaining social distancing has been enforced in divisional cities and district towns.
“Members of the army will extend cooperation to district administrations to make it effective,” she said.
The premier mentioned that Bangladesh Medical Association and Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad have made a list of 500 physicians who will provide services to the people.
Sheikh Hasina urged the well-off people to come forward to extend their helping hands to the lower income people affected due to outbreak of the virus.
“Many people lost their work due to the coronavirus outbreak…we’ve to stand by them,” she said.
The PM said the lower income people will be given assistance at their respective villages under the “Ghore Fera” (return home) programme.
The PM said homeless and landless people will be provided homes, and food for six months at free of cost and cash incentive. “The Deputy Commissioners have already been instructed in this regard,” she said.
The premier said accommodation for 100,000 people having employment facilities has been created at Bhashan Char. “If anyone wants to go there, the government will take measures to this end,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said sale of rice at Taka 10 per kg and distribution of rice at free of cost under the VGD and VGF programmes will continue. “Medicines and healthcare services are being given at free of cost in the same way,” she said.
The PM said the country’s industrial production and commercial export might be affected due to the outbreak of the deadly disease. “We’ve taken some crisis-time measures to face the blow,” she said.
In this connection, Sheikh Hasina said she has already announced an incentive package of Taka 5,000 crore for export-oriented industrial institutions.
“The fund can only be used for paying salaries and allowances of the workers and staff members,” she said.
Besides, she said, the Bangladesh Bank has already taken some business-friendly initiatives. “The central bank has announced not to declare any client loan defaulter by June this year,” she said.
The premier said the deadline of collecting income from export has been extended to six months from two months. Similarly, timeframe of meeting up import expenditure has also been extended to six months from four months, she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the limit of monetary transaction through mobile banking has been increased.
“Time limit of paying electricity, water and gas bills has been extended till June without surcharges or fines and paying installment of NGO loans has been suspended temporarily,” she said.
The premier said on Mar 15, she joined a videoconferencing with head of states and governments of SAARC nations with a view to fighting the spread of coronavirus on the basis of international and regional cooperation.
“I made a fervent appeal to the leaders of SAARC nations to take united efforts regionally to contain the outbreak of the disease,” she said.
The PM said the foreign ministries of the SAARC countries are working together to implement the proposed recommendations.
“We’ve decided to form a joint fund where Bangladesh announced to provide $15 lakh,” she said.
The PM said the government has been tirelessly working for materialising the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. “We are now at the final stage of establishing his hunger and poverty-free Bangladesh,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh today joined the line of developing countries from the less developed countries.
“Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in production of crops, vegetable-fish-meat-egg. The construction of the own financed Padma Bridge is now at the final stage,” she said.
The premier said the work of Dhaka Metro Rail and tunnel under the Karnaphuli river in Chattogram has been progressing fast.
“We are nearing completion of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and our own Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has been launched into the space,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the country witnessed 8.15 percent economic growth last year.
“We were heading towards achieving the target this year. But the experts hint that the deadly coronavirus is going to put negative impact on the global economy alongside the public health and this blow can also affect us,” she said.
The PM said this year’s Independence Day is set to be celebrated in a different context as the entire world is now rattled over the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
She said all the countries — rich or poor, developed or developing, small or big – are now being more or less affected by the fatal coronavirus.
“Our beloved Bangladesh is not freed from the infectious disease,” she said.
In this context, she said, the government has decided to celebrate the Independence and National Day differently considering the public health. “I’m requesting all to refrain from arranging the programmes having chances of mass gatherings,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said paying homage to the martyrs at the National Martyrs’ Memorial and children rally across the country have already been postponed.
“Due to the same reason, we have broadcast the inaugural function of the “Mujib Borsho” through television and other media by avoiding mass gatherings,” she said.
At the outset of her speech, the premier extended her heartiest greetings to all on the occasion of the great Independence and National Day.
She paid profound respect to the greatest Bangali of all times, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and four national leaders.
Sheikh Hasina also paid deep homage to three million martyrs of the liberation war and two lakh mothers and sisters tortured in the war.