Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said the educational institutions will remain closed till September next if the situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak does not improve.
“We’ll not open educational institutions now. Those will remain shut till at least September next if the present coronavirus (pandemic) continues … we’ll open the educational institutions when the pandemic will stop,” she said.
The prime minister said this while interacting with the public representatives and officials of eight districts of Rajshahi division on the present coronavirus situation of the country through a videoconference from her official Ganabhaban residence here this morning.
The districts are Bogura, Chapainawabganj, Joypurhat, Naogaon, Natore, Pabna, Rajshahi and Sirajgonj.
Interest of bank loans:
The premier urged the businesspeople not to worry about the interest of the bank loan, saying that the government will consider the suspension of payment of the interest and how much amount of the interest could be waived.
She said many businesspeople started business by taking loans from the banks, but the amount of interest has increased due to present situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak.
“So don’t worry about it. The interest is not supposed to be taken now, and after this meeting, I’ll sit with the finance minister (in this regard),” she said.
She went on saying: “We’ll consider so that the payment of interest remains suspended in this situation and how much amount of the interest could be waived and how much you (businesspeople) can pay regularly.”
Recruitment of 2000 doctors and 6000 nurses:
Sheikh Hasina said her government has already initiated the process of appointing 2000 more physicians and 6000 nurses to ensure treatment of the coronavirus infected patients.
“We are going to appoint more 2000 physicians and 6000 nurses at the quickest possible time to ensure treatment of the coronavirus patients,” the premier said.
“The process to this end has already started and I myself has already approved it,” she said, adding the doctors will be recruited from those who have passed the BCS examinations.
Sheikh Hasina said after recruitment of the physicians and nurses, all of them will be imparted special training on treating COVID-19 patients.
She reiterated that her government has taken initiatives to set up Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in every district in phases.
Lifting of shutdown:
The prime minister said the government is lifting the shutdown gradually from that places where coronavirus has had less impact.
“Our biggest tasks are now to save the people and keep up their living and livelihood … we’re giving attention so that the people can lead a normal life and do trade and commerce smoothly,” she said.
The prime minister said harvesting of the Boro paddy is underway and subsequently crops will be cultivated on those lands.
“So some places will have to be opened up. But there will be a request of mine that you’ll work by keeping protected yourselves,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government has made arrangements for smooth movement of the people involved in harvesting paddy.
“If you can reduce the infection rate of the disease by protecting yourselves, we’ll withdraw restrictions on communication,” she said.
The prime minister said there are no restrictions on transportation of goods and mentioned that she has already asked the law enforcement agencies to create scopes for the transportation of goods.
“This facilities will be increased further as trucks, vans and other vehicles will be needed for it … we’ll also create scopes for transportation of goods on the river routes so that no problem arises in transportation of goods to keep under control their prices,” she said.
Stimulus packages for all classes people:
Referring to the announcement of a set of stimulus packages of over Taka one lakh crore, Sheikh Hasina said that the government has declared these packages considering the people of all classes and professions.
“We’re continuing assistance to the extreme poor people. But we are aware that the low-wage earners and those who earn livelihood by doing small works are going through severe hardship due to the present situation,” she said.
“So, we’ve announced nearly Taka one lakh crore incentive packages considering the people of all classes and professions including those involved in small trades like dairy, poultry, hatchery, agriculture,” she added.
In this connection, the prime minister said the government is disbursing loans to the small traders with only two percent interest rate from these incentive packages so that they can continue doing their business.
While talking about the Taka 5000 crore stimulus package for the agriculture sector, Sheikh Hasina said the government has declared this special package and fund so that the agriculture works continue.
“Agriculture is the most important sector for us and that’s why we’ve made this arrangement, and everybody including small and medium farmers and those who have poultry and dairy farms and hatcheries will get assistance from it,” she said.
“We’re also giving subsidy of Taka 9,500 crore so that the farmers keep up their agriculture work,” she added.
Procurement of 21 lakh MT food grains this season:
The prime minister said the government has taken a plan to procure 21 lakh metric tons of food grains this season to ensure food security and fair prices of farmers’ produces.
“The harvesting of the paddy is underway and simultaneously, we’ll start purchasing of the paddy and I believe that there will not be any scarcity of food Insha Allah if we work in unison,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the leaders and workers of Awami League, Krishak League, Chhatra League and other associate bodies are helping the farmers in cutting Boro paddy following her directives.
“Besides, the farmers are getting the benefits of mechanisation of the agriculture and for this we’ve allocated Taka 200 crore in this regard,” she said.
Referring to the forecast of many international organizations, the premier said the world may experience famine and great economic depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this connection, the prime minister urged all concerned to stay careful so that a small piece of land does not remain uncultivated.
“We’ve fertile land and hard-working people. So, everybody should be engaged in producing foods whatever and wherever they can so that the country doesn’t face any crisis of food,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also instructed the local administrations to give prompt support to farmers to grow other crops particularly in those districts which are famous for (different) crops production immediately after harvesting the Boro paddy as no land remains uncultivated for a long period.
Support for vulnerable people:
The prime minister said the government is providing food assistance to the vulnerable people of 64 districts in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’ve allocated 95,000 MT rice and Taka 40 crore cash for this purpose and tasked 64 secretaries in the 64 districts for coordination of the relief distribution programmes,” she said.
In this regard, Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League president, asked the party leaders and workers alongside the administration to prepare a list of those vulnerable people for providing food assistance to them in this perilous time.
“The list will have to be prepared for those who are seriously affected by the shutdown over the coronavirus outbreak and by excluding those who are now getting assistance from the social safety net programmes,” she said.
The prime minister said the government has launched providing food assistance to the extreme poor and distressed people ahead of the holy month Ramadan.
“The holy Eid-ul-Fitr is ahead and we’ll distribute food among them in another phase before the Eid so that they do not suffer for food,” she said.
The premier urged all to work together to combat the situation and help those who are working day and night to contain the disease “It’s natural that disasters come and we face these disasters and this calamity is worldwide. We’ll be freed together from this situation Insha Allah,” she said.
“I hope darkness will fade away soon and sunny days will certainly come and we’ll start our journey towards the path of light again,” Sheikh Hasina said.
The prime minister extended her Ramadan greetings to all and urged the Muslim devotees to offer prayers at home to protect themselves from the infection of the lethal virus.
“I will request everybody to pray to Allah in this holy month so that the people of Bangladesh and entire world as well get rid of the deadly disease,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina continued: “I do believe that the bad time won’t persist forever and we’ll be able to overcome it, while mills and factories will resume their production and our economy will be operative again.”
Steps taken to contain the disease:
Sheikh Hasina said her government is taking every possible measure in line with the guideline of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to save people’s life from the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Pointing out the statistics of global deaths and infections by the COVID-19, she said the situation of Bangladesh is better in comparison to other countries.
The prime minister said said the government has been attaching priority to protect the physicians, nurses and health activists who are rendering healthcare services to COVID-19 patients.
“We’ve been taking all possible measures for ensuring protection of the health workers including doctors and nurses who are giving healthcare services to COVID-19 patients risking their lives.”
In this connection, she referred to arrangement of better treatment for a physician infected with the coronavirus who was brought to Dhaka from Khulna by a helicopter.
The prime minister renewed her call to all to maintain the stay-at-home guideline and voluntary home quarantine policies as well as avoid mass gatherings as a part of the precautionary measures to protect themselves from the super contagious disease.
Urges affluent people to help distressed people:
The premier urged all, particularly the affluent section of the society, to join hands with the government to mitigate the hardship of the distressed people in their perilous time.
Referring to donation of Taka 10,000 by a beggar to the relief fund, she said Nazimuddin from Jhenaigati of Sherpur district collected the money from begging to build his house.
She continued: “He (Nazimuddin) has set an example for the world by donating all his belongings for the welfare of the needy people. Such human quality is not even seen in many rich people. We have many things to learn from him.”
The prime minister said the government had undertaken many programmes to celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“But we had to cancel the programmes in the greater interest of the people,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the Father of the Nation had struggled throughout his life and sacrificed his life for the welfare of the people.
“So it’s very very important for us to save the life of the people (at this moment) … our aim is to change the lot of Bangabandhu’s beloved people and we’re working to achieve the goal,” she said.
While exchanging views with the prime minister on the present coronavirus situation of their respective districts, the public representatives and officials highly appreciated the premier for her sincere efforts and timely steps to stem the outbreak of the fatal disease.
They also referred to an article of the prestigious US magazine Forbes which highly praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and placed her name in the list of successful women leaders of the world for her timely steps and sincere efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh.
“We’re very much proud of this success of the prime minister,” they said.
PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus moderated the function while concerned secretaries were present at Ganabhaban.-BSS