Bangladesh plans to extend closure as Covid-19 death toll rises to 175

DHAKA Bangladesh It plans to extend until May 15, as the novel claimed five more lives in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country to 175.

The Prime Minister's Office is considering a proposal for a prolonged closure, a PMO spokesman told PTI on Saturday, hours after the junior minister of public administration, Forhad Hossain, said his office suggested the extension until 15 May to prevent further spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina previously ordered a comprehensive anti-COVID-19 campaign, amid the steady increase in coronavirus cases in the country.

The government initially declared a general holiday on March 26 for 10 days. Later, that was gradually extended till April 25 as the country kept seeing a rise in the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19. Bangladesh later extended the nationwide shutdown until May 5.

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the number of infections increased to 8,790 after 552 more people tested positive for 5,827 in the past 24 hours, the highest number of tests in a single day.

DGHS Additional Director General Professor Nasima Sultana said that Bangladesh was witnessing a rapid rise of coronavirus cases since March 24 as 8,784 people tested positive for the virus since then. The number of infection was only 6 until March 23.

She said the COVID-19 cases were found in 63 out of the country's 64 administrative districts, Bangladesh confirmed the first coronavirus death on March 18, ten days after the detection of the first three cases.

Among COVID-19 infected cases, nearly 75 percent of patients receive treatment at home, and many of them heal every day after receiving treatment, Sultana said.

As of May 2, of the total deaths, 95 deaths were recorded in Dhaka City and 39 in Narayanganj, the river port city on the outskirts of the capital.

Dhaka is the most affected area with 54.73 percent of COVID-19 cases.

Sultana said the massive spread of the virus has led authorities to expand testing facilities across the country, involving non-governmental organizations, universities, state research institutes and private hospitals.

Despite experts' warnings, Bangladesh has reopened hundreds of its garment factories this week after nearly one month of closures. The factory owners said they were operating with fewer workers than usual and following safety guidelines.

A spokesman of the Bangladesh Garments Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said that some 850 among nearly 4,000 factories were reopened maintaining cautions, engaging a limited number of workers who live nearby.

BGMEA secretary Mohammad Abdur Razzak said factories were complying with health guidelines, while the decision followed a government directive that allowed companies that were under pressure from buyers to resume production.

A BGMEA business analyst said the factories opened for fear of losing business to competitors like Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and India.

But a health ministry official who preferred to remain anonymous said factories should have taken more days to prepare for the safety of their workers, who are at the highest risk of infection.

There are almost 4.1 million garment workers in the country.

Global led the international apparel brands and retailers, who rely on the cheap labor that Bangladesh provides, to cancel or suspend an estimated USD 3.17 billion worth of orders in the country.

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