Thousands stranded in Bangladesh ahead of sweeping Covid lockdown

Thousands stranded in Bangladesh ahead of sweeping Covid lockdown

Thousands of people were stranded in Bangladesh’s capital on Monday as authorities halted almost all public transport ahead of a sweeping lockdown imposed to combat a deadly resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

The country reported 119 deaths on Sunday, its highest-ever daily death toll from the pandemic, while new infections have been averaging around 5,000 for the past few days.

Officials blame the recent spike in cases on the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant first identified in neighbouring India.

The majority of the South Asian nation’s 168 million population will be confined to their homes by Thursday as part of the restrictions, with only essential services and some export-facing factories allowed to operate.

The lockdown announcement sparked an exodus of migrant workers from the capital Dhaka to home villages on Sunday, with tens of thousands of people cramming into ferries to cross a major river.

The staggered implementation of the lockdown rules left thousands of workers in Dhaka forced to walk to their offices on Monday, sometimes for hours, in the sweltering summer heat.

Large columns of people were seen walking on the main roads early Monday. Workplaces will be shut from Wednesday.

Bicycle rickshaws were allowed to operate in a last minute government concession on Sunday, but prices had soared to unaffordable levels, commuters said. “I started walking at 7 a.m. I can’t afford a rickshaw ride,” Shefali Begum, 60, who was going to her daughter’s home in central Dhaka, said.

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