Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Bangladesh to ease COVID-19-related measures beginning May 31. International flight disruptions ongoing.

This alert affects Bangladesh

This alert began 29 May 2020 04:29 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, increased security; possible clashes

Summary
Authorities in Bangladesh plan to ease restrictions in place to control the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) beginning May 31. The government will permit private businesses and shops to open, provided they follow government-issued health instructions. Workers considered vulnerable to COVID-19, employees with illnesses, and pregnant women remain exempt from working in offices. Officials will restrict the operating hours of retail outlets to 1000-1600. Workplaces must disinfect their spaces before opening, conduct temperature checks, and ensure employees wear masks and maintain a physical distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet). The government previously allowed mosques to reopen but has reduced capacity to five worshipers at a time and 10 worshipers for Friday prayers.

Public transport will also resume nationwide May 31, though with reduced services and passenger limits to maintain physical distance. Passengers on all transport must wear masks. Bangladesh Railway will only operate intercity services and plans to restrict passengers to 50 percent of train capacity. Officials have also announced that domestic flight operations will resume June 1. However, authorities are curbing air travel to routes between Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, and Syedpur, where airports have already installed thermal scanners, among other recommended safety measures. Authorities plan to add additional routes as other airports in the country adopt the standards. The government plans to review the restrictions by June 15 and determine if a further relaxation or reimposition of COVID-19 measures is warranted.

Despite easing measures, the government will continue a nightly 2200-0600 curfew nationwide, and residents are to remain within their homes as much as possible. An ongoing ban on social and public gatherings and the closure of public spaces, tourist attractions, educational institutions, and entertainment venues will also continue. Violators of these restrictions could face legal sanctions.

The government will continue to restrict interdistrict movement. Further movement controls prohibiting individuals from leaving their neighborhoods for nonessential reasons remain possible. Officials previously restricted travel within districts across much of the country, including urban centers such as Dhaka, Narayanganj, Chittagong, and Cox's Bazar. Officials set up checkpoints at entrances and exits to affected areas, only allowing essential personnel to pass. Workers of garment factories and other authorized industries may enter Dhaka with permits. Authorities may impose further movement restrictions in more locations in the coming days if the number of COVID-19 cases increases.

Sporadic clashes are possible if any group attempts to enforce business closures or defy official orders such as capacity limits on congregational prayers. Labor demonstrations over wage and bonus issues are likely to continue, mainly outside garment factories in cities; tens to hundreds of workers may gather at each protest, prompting localized traffic congestion. Police will likely act quickly and forcefully to control any disruptions or violence.

Travel Restrictions

Officials have extended a ban on international commercial flights, except those between Bangladesh and mainland China, through at least June 15; further extensions are likely. International cargo, medical, and humanitarian flights continue to operate. Visa-on-arrival services remain suspended until further notice. Authorities are requiring any foreign nationals arriving in Bangladesh to provide a medical certificate (with an English translation) within 72 hours of arrival, indicating that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Arriving passengers must self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. Officials will quarantine inbound travelers with a No Visa Required (NVR) certificate and without a medical certificate for 14 days.

Land border crossings remain closed for passenger transit, though trade is permitted. Reports indicate disruptions to ground freight transport at the border with India's West Bengal State, mainly at the Petrapole-Benapole checkpoint, where thousands of trucks remain stranded due to state-specific preventive measures. Trains are carrying essential goods into West Bengal State instead. Trade at all other border points remains functional and limited mostly to essential products.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers. Plan for ground shipping and travel delays; seek alternative routes and shipping methods for time-sensitive cargo.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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