Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged everyone to follow health guidelines and celebrate Pahela Boishakh at home when the nation enters a strict weeklong lockdown to contain the upsurge of coronavirus transmission.
"We have to remember that the lives of the people come first. If (we) survive, we’ll be able to rearrange everything," she said while addressing the nation on the eve of Bengali New Year, Pahela Boishakh.
State-owned Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television (BTV) simultaneously broadcasted her address. Private television channels and radio stations also aired the Prime Minister’s speech.
She also urged the countrymen not to be panicked at the second wave of covid-19 and assured that her government is always with them. She asked authorities concerned to take measures to provide necessary assistance to the poor and low-income people.
In her roughly 13-minute speech, the Prime Minister said that the government has imposed some restrictions on the movement of people due to the second wave of coronavirus last week.
She said the rise in cases compelled the government to take some tough measures following the advice of public health experts.
The prime minister acknowledged that the strict measures could cause some issues for the livelihoods of many people. She reminded everyone that protecting the people's lives was the top priority.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that last year everyone had to face various types of adverse situations after coronavirus hit. "As quarantine is one of the ways to resist this pandemic, for that we’ve to take some steps that had an impact on people's lives and livelihoods," she said.
The four principles
She said that last year the government imposed 62 days of general holiday. It is yet to open educational institutions. The Prime Minister said the situation was not unique to Bangladesh. “Such steps are being taken wherever the impact of this deadly virus is intensifying," she said.
Along with saving people's lives, the Prime Minister said the government is keeping watch so that country's economy, lives and livelihoods of the people do not fall apart.
“With cooperation from all we have taken some steps, as a result, last year we were able to face the coronavirus pandemic successfully,” she said.
She said the government fixed four key activities last year to face the possible adverse impact of coronavirus. They were—increasing public expenditure prioritising employment generation; formulating stimulus package for reviving economic activities, keeping labours and workers in their jobs and keeping the competitiveness of the entrepreneurs.
The other two are— expanding social safety net programmes for fulfilling the basic needs of people living under the poverty line, non-institutionally engaged and day labourers, and increasing money supply to overcome the adverse impact on the economy in a way there will be no inflation.
“Our activities are continuing based on these four principles. We’ve already announced 23 stimulus packages of Tk 1,24,053 crore,” she said.
She also said that some 2.5 crore people have been brought under various government assistance programme apart from taking steps for uninterrupted production in mills and factories and increasing agricultural production.
“There’s no need to be worried, the government is always beside you. I’ve taken steps for the poor and lower-income group after the second wave hit,” she said.
In this regard, she said that the government allocated Tk 807.65 crore for employment generation in the rural areas and more than Tk 672 crore for Holy Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. This will benefit 1,24,42,000 lower income group families.
5.6mln people received first dose
Talking about the vaccine of coronavirus, Sheikh Hasina said that scientists have already invented some vaccines, Oxford-AstraZeneca is one of them.
She also said that it was a matter of good luck that Bangladesh has been able to bring a sizeable number of doses at the beginning of the vaccine production.
“In the meantime, more than 56 lakh people have been taken the first dose of the vaccine. Those who’ve taken the first dose are now taking the second dose. Gradually, we’ll bring everyone under the vaccine programme and we’ve the preparations,” she said.
But she mentioned that the health experts said that there is no assurance that one will be fully protected from the virus after receiving the vaccine. “So, after taking the vaccine, we’ll have to maintain health guidelines too,” she said.
Covid treatment facilities being increased
The Prime Minister said that the area of coronavirus patient treatment has been further expanded in all districts including Dhaka. In the meantime, steps have been taken for uninterrupted oxygen supply in public specialised hospitals. Existing ICU facilities are being increased.
She urged everyone to be careful and ensure protection for themselves, family members and neighbours. “So, gatherings have to be avoided and everyone should wear a mask when going outside. After returning home, one should get cleaned and take hot water vapour,” she said.
“If everyone follows health guidelines, it’ll be possible to keep the pandemic under control, Inshallah,” she said.
‘Celebrate Pahela Boishakh digitally’
She also mentioned that era after era pandemic, storms, cyclones and calamities come, mankind has to survive facing all these.
“The path of life is not smooth. The path may be tough enough [but] we’ve to make our advancement conquering that,” she said.
Quoting some lines of National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Prime Minister said that Bangalis are the victorious nation and they are surviving facing various adversities.
“Inshallah, we’ll face this coronavirus pandemic. In the new year our prayer to the Almighty is to save the world from this pandemic,” she said.
The Prime Minister greeted the countrymen on the occasion of Bengali New Year and Holy Ramadan that fell on the same day this year.
She also asked all to stay home. “Like the previous year, Bangalis will have to celebrate Pahela Boishakh festival through digital medium remaining at home,” she said.