Bangladesh on Monday extended its strictest lockdown to July 14 to combat a surge in Covid-19 cases led by the highly contagious Delta variant, with areas bordering India reporting the most infections.
Bangladesh reported 153 deaths due to Covid-19 on Sunday, its biggest daily rise since the pandemic began. Its total death toll stands at over 15,000 with heading for one million infections.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, particularly in districts bordering India, where the Delta variant was first identified. Bangladesh sealed its border with India in April, but trade continues.
A surge in cases had prompted the government to order a week of tight controls on Thursday, with army troops patrolling streets to ensure public compliance.
Factories are allowed to operate while observing health protocols, and all offices and transportation remain shut except essential goods carriers and ambulances.
All measures have been extended, the government said in a statement. The shutdown has sparked an exodus of migrant workers from the capital Dhaka to their home villages, many walking in the absence of public transport.
Many workers are finding it difficult to survive without any income coming in.
“During the lockdown, there is no work. If this continues, I don’t know how I’ll feed my family,” said Mohammad Manik, father of two, who works as a day labourer at a kitchen market in Dhaka. “It is not the coronavirus but hunger that will kill us.”
Bangladesh received 2.5 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine from the US under the Covax global-sharing scheme over the weekend. It also received two million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
Bangladesh’s vaccination drive suffered a blow after India stopped exports of the AstraZeneca shot in response to a record surge in domestic infections.
Only 3% of Bangladesh’s population of 170 million have been vaccinated.
RepublicWorld.com reports that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sent over 2,600kg of mangoes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a goodwill gesture that has been dubbed “mango diplomacy”.
According to local reports in Bangladesh, the mango shipment arrived at the India-Bangladesh border on Sunday. From there, it will be delivered to Modi’s residence.
The “mango diplomacy” move comes at a time when Bangladesh has reportedly expressed dismay with India due to the delay of Covid-19 vaccines.
Earlier in June, India’s Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami had said that the country was looking forward to resuming the export of Covid-19 vaccines to Bangladesh.
However, there is no clarity regarding dates yet.
In March, India gifted Bangladesh with 1.2 million free doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.