by Staff Correspondent in Dhaka;
There were no outdoor celebrations of traditional Bangla New Year as the yet another week-long shutdown began across Bangladesh on Wednesday to check the spike of the novel coronavirus.
Lawmen were seen on the first day intercepting vehicles on Dhaka streets to check whether their riders obtained movement pass or not. Police say no one was allowed without a movement pass, which the government launched on Tuesday, a day ahead of the strict lockdown came into effect for eight days.
The streets wore generally deserted look with only a handful of vehicles, mostly of emergency services and food supply among others, plying.
With the new cases and deaths registering new records, the government ordered the lockdown shutting public and private offices, shopping malls and transportation.
The first day of the shutdown coincided with the Pahela Boishakh, the first day of Bangla New Year which people celebrate every year with much enthusiasm. But revelers were not seen anywhere as all outdoor celebrations were mostly shut because of the pandemic.
The open-air concert at the dawn by Chhayanot cultural platform to welcome the New Year, countless rural fairs, halkhata (opening a new ledger by the traders and shop owners by offering sweetmeats) and visiting homes of relatives and friends were suspended.
The Mangal Shobhajatra procession at Dhaka University premises was attended by less than 100 people that included few university teachers and officials from the cultural affairs ministry beside students from Fine Arts Institute of the university.
Tens of thousands of people wearing colourful masks generally join the secular procession, an intangible cultural heritage recognized by the UNESCO, in the morning of the day to seek societal wellness.
“Coronavirus has forced us to a low key-celebration of the Bangla New Year, hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate it with due festivity next year,” State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, who joined the procession briefly, said.
He also called upon the people to maintain health guidelines and stay safe.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her televised address to the nation on Tuesday greeted the people on the occasion of Bangla New Year requested them to celebrate the day indoors.
“We all will have to keep in mind that people’s life is the top priority; we can recover everything if we stay alive,” she said referring to the restrictions imposed on health ground.
Many people who stayed indoors on celebrated the day with their friends virtually. Social media platforms were flooded with greetings.
During the lockdown, however, mills and factories were allowed to remain open, as long as the operators follow health guidelines and arrange transportation for employees. The banks are allowed a three-hour transaction beside a three-hour trading at the stock exchange.
More than 500 international flights were cancelled after Bangladesh slaps an air-travel ban coinciding the lockdown. The suspension will remain in effect until April 20, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, which reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus March last year, reported its highest single-day increase in infections on Friday, with 7,462 cases. It reported the highest 96 deaths in a day on Wedensday.
So far, the country has reported some 697,985 cases and 9,891 deaths.
Bangladesh previously imposed a nationwide shutdown for more than two months, from March 26, 2020 until May.