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Bangladesh opens malls during lockdown as covid cases soar

In Dhaka, roads are free with only private cars moving while rickshaw pullers wait for passengers on the empty streets during lockdown. (Usraat Fahmidah/YJI)

Dhaka, BANGLADESH – Bangladesh is struggling to maintain a strict lockdown amidst a surge of covid-19 cases. 

With new strains of the virus spreading quickly, the number of cases and the death toll continues to rise in Bangladesh, according to information from the World Health Organization.

Starting mid-April after the country saw a sharp increase in covid-19 cases, the government here imposed an aggressive lockdown with more stringent rules.

The decision came on the first day of the Bengali New Year when the country celebrates the day with full festivity.

It was also the first day of Ramadan in this Muslim-majority nation. 

Even after imposing strict rules, the government allowed citizens to move around only for emergency purposes.

People have to apply online for a “movement pass” in order to move freely within the city. It is free, but is good for only one trip. Police are fining those without the pass 3,000 takas, or roughly 35 USD. 

As the country struggles with higher death tolls and a lack of resources to care for covid patients, people are protesting against the covid restrictions. 

Though Bangladesh has gone through both soft and aggressive lockdowns since early this month, these intermittent lockdowns aren’t sitting well with citizens.

According to an Al Jazeera report, three people were wounded while protesting the lockdown. 

Youth Journalism International spoke with one citizen struggling with the lockdown.

Masrur Abdul Quader is a full-time employee at an artificial intelligence startup who is frustrated with the lockdown. 

“It’s hard to continue work. It’s very stressful as the transport cost is too high and other facilities are limited as well,” Quader said.

Many private sector employees must continue working full-time in the office and it’s hard for them to find transportation during the lockdown. 

Lower income people, including the rickshaw pullers and delivery service riders, have lost any source of income during this lockdown.

The people are growing desperate day by day to continue with their normal lives – unfazed by the growing number of cases – as the lockdown causes financial strain. 

On Sunday, a sharp increase in cases prompted the government to close the border with India for two weeks.

But on April 27th, while the lockdown continued, the government opened shopping malls during specific times. 

Despite weakening the second phase of lockdown, it has proven to be unfruitful as people crowd shopping malls and stores with the approaching of the largest festival, Eid-al-Fitr.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 11,228 covid-19 deaths in Bangladesh in the last year.

The government said it will extend the lockdown until May 5.

Usraat Fahmidah is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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