DHAKA: Bangladesh on Tuesday extended the ongoing nationwide lockdown to April 9 amid fears of the possibility of community level transmission of the novel coronavirus, which has claimed over 38,000 lives across the globe.
Bangladesh, which has so far recorded over 50 COVID-19 cases and five deaths, on March 26 declared a 10-day nationwide lockdown till April 4 to curb the spread of the deadly viral infection.
"The lockdown will be extended until April 9, (but) offices and industries (factories) could resume work in a limited scale," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, while holding a video conference with senior government officials from her official residence 'Gono Bhaban'.
According to officials, the prime minister's announcement came in the wake of healthcare officials and experts expressing concern that community level transmission of coronavirus might have begun on a limited scale.
A director of the health services told PTI that defying calls for social distancing, a huge number of people on crowded buses, ferries and trains rushed to their villages as soon as the lockdown was announced on Friday last.
And there are chances that the virus could spread if they return back en masse on April 4.
"The extension of the lockdown from April 4 to April 9 would help complete a 14-day cycle for recovery and testing," he said.
Prime Minister Hasina directed the officials not to hold any public programmes marking the upcoming Bengali New Year (April 14) and also asked people to scrap their new year festivities to avoid mass gatherings.
Celebrate the New Year digitally and avoid public programmes to mark the festival, she said.
"It is painful to shut Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year) programme but will have to do for the sake of public interest," the prime minister said.
Hasina said travel restrictions would be eased gradually, cautiously resuming different modes of public transports, to evade sudden crowding of passengers after the lockdown gets over.
The premier said corruption will not be tolerated in coronavirus-assistance activities and warned against hoarding or inflating prices of essential commodities.
Such corrupt practices would be dealt with strictly, she said.