Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured people of government support amid the pandemic and urged them to follow the health rules and restrictions imposed to curb coronavirus infections
She addressed the nation to greet Bangladeshis on Pahela Baishakh on the eve of the Bangla New Year on Tuesday, a day before a strict lockdown begins and the month of Ramadan is expected to start.
Hasina referred to the government efforts while giving the people courage to tackle the situation. It has allocated cash aid to over 12.44 million poor families after the second wave of COVID-19 hit Bangladesh.
“You don’t need to be anxious. The government is always by your side,” the prime minister remarked.
The lockdown was needed to save lives, she said, noting that many other countries had to take similar measures.
“You’ve seen that the infections are proving very difficult to contain. So we have had to take some strict measures following the advice of public health experts.
“I know it will disrupt livelihoods of many. But we must remember that human lives come first. We will be able to regain everything if we live,” Hasina said.
The government is careful so that the economy does not break down due to the restrictions to save lives, she said.
The steps taken last year to tackle the economic impacts of the pandemic have continued, the prime minister said.
The steps include increasing government spending with the focus on creation of jobs, implementing stimulus package to save jobs and help entrepreneurs compete, expanding social safety net to help people engaged in informal sectors, and boosting cash flow while keeping inflation on check.
The government announced Tk 1.24 trillion stimulus packages and brought around 25 million people under programmes to help the poor, Hasina said.
It also allocated Tk 8.07 billion to create jobs in the rural areas and Tk 6.72 billion as cash aid to be distributed during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr.
Efforts are on to ensure undisrupted oxygen supply to the government hospitals and increase Intensive Care Units to treat the coronavirus patients in Dhaka and other districts, the prime minister said.
More than 5.6 million have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and the government has begun giving the second dose. Everyone will get the vaccine gradually, she added.
The prime minister reminded people of the risks of infection even after vaccination, urging them to continue following the health rules after taking the doses.
“It is our duty to keep ourselves, family members and neighbours safe. So, please avoid crowds, use masks outdoors, get yourself clean and inhale hot water vapour after returning home.”
She urged citizens to follow the 18-point health instructions issued by the government and said it will be possible to keep the outbreak under control if they obey the instructions.
With restrictions on outdoor movement, she advised all to celebrate Pahela Baishakh at home.