Bangladesh starts its most severe lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday with people allowed to leave their homes only in emergencies and soldiers set to patrol the streets to enforce it, as the nation faces a deadly resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
The government announced the new measures as the coronavirus surged in recent days, particularly in border areas. Health officials say the national COVID-19 positivity rate is now over 20%. Sunday saw a record number of deaths, with 119, followed by a record number of new cases — 8,364 — set Monday.
Along with home confinement, the restrictions include the closure of public transport networks, sending thousands rushing to ferry and bus stations over the last two days to make it home before Thursday.
The Guardian newspaper reports Cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters troops would be deployed after the lockdown takes effect. He said, “If anyone ignores their orders, legal action will be [taken against] them.”
Bangladesh closed its borders when the pandemic hit last year. But many people travelled to and from India illegally anyway, bringing with them new infections. And while India’s situation has stabilized, in Bangladesh, it has escalated.
Health officials are concerned the Eid al-adha Muslim holiday at the end of July will only exacerbate the situation. Bangladesh Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research official Dr. ASM Alamgir said that if the Delta variant of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is not already in Bangladesh, it will be by then.
He said that while new infections are currently concentrated around border areas, during Eid millions of people go from the capital, Dhaka, where infections are also on the rise, to village areas.
Officials expect Thursday’s lockdown to last at least a week.
Some information in this report is from The Associated Press.