Published:  12:13 AM, 06 June 2020

Call for strict lockdown

When the government has unlocked Bangladesh, researchers and businesses have proposed a strict lockdown for a few weeks to strangle the coronavirus outbreak.The economy will be greatly harmed despite the reopening while human lives will be lost if the situation spirals out of control, they warned at a dialogue via video conferencing on Thursday, reports

Besides researchers Ahsan H Mansur and Professor Mustafizur Rahman, and business leaders Nihad Kabir and Abul Kasem Khan, former chairman of the National Board of Revenue Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, former principal secretary Abdul Karim and diplomat Riaz Hamidullah, among others, joined the dialogue.

Nihad, the president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said she believes Bangladesh has the capability to recover from the economic shock and a strict lockdown for 15 to 20 days will help the process.She suggested the government should not announce a "confusing" general holiday in place of lockdown before planning a gradual reopening if it were to avert a disaster.

Nihad said the businesses had been calling for efforts to ensure the protection of the people's lives and health from the beginning. "We will be able to avert a catastrophe if we do this."

Mansur, the executive director at the Policy Research Institute, said efforts to gain short-term profits may jeopardise long-term benefits.     He said other countries will not shift their investments from affected countries to Bangladesh if the government cannot keep the rate of infection low. "

The Chinese and Japanese will leave our country instead if the situation worsens," he cautioned.Riaz, the high commissioner of Bangladesh in Colombo, said the Sri Lankan government and the private sector were working in coordination to control the outbreak.

For example, he said, they had taken up a massive campaign to disinfect buses when the country lifted the lockdown last month.  Former NBR chief Mosharraf also stressed the need for coordination.

Prof Mustafizur, distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue, emphasised efforts to keep income inequality in check. Kasem, a former president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Bangladesh should not follow others to the letter in leaving lockdown because it is one of the most densely populated countries and not all countries have the same lifestyle. 

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