Bangladesh extends lockdown as Indian strain infects 7 more

By SM Najmus Sakib

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Bangladesh extended its countrywide lockdown for another 10 days on Sunday, with particular concern for districts along the border with India, from which the "Delta strain" of COVID-19 has spread to other countries.

The Cabinet issued a notification extending the current two-month lockdown until June 16, which was imposed on April 5 after the second coronavirus wave hit the country hard, claiming hundreds of lives.

Since then, the government has tightened restrictions on public gatherings, including social, political, and religious events, as well as measures on restaurants, tourist attractions, resorts, and community centers during the lockdown period.

Following the latest notification, local authorities have placed seven districts bordering India under complete lockdown.

In the last week, the border district of Rajshahi has witnessed a 55% increase in COVID-19-related casualties, whereas the entire country has reported a 25% increase in the fatality ratio.

Meanwhile, as the lockdown was extended, educational institutions also will not reopen on the scheduled date of June 13, the deputy education minister told the media.

– Efforts to bring vaccines from Russia, China, US

Foreign Minister A. K. Abdul Momen said in a statement on Sunday that the country was keen to procure 5 million doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine from Russia. The Health Ministry is working on this, he added.

Bangladesh is on the verge of securing a vaccine procurement agreement with Russia, he said, adding that "vaccines from China and the US will come soon as the government has increased efforts to bring vaccines."

The country stepped up its efforts only after India suspended shipments of vaccines under a tripartite agreement, leaving 1.4 million Bangladeshis uncertain of their second doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca shot, according to a separate statement issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the country's drug regulatory authority approved the Chinese vaccine CoronaVac for emergency use on Sunday, making it the fifth jab to be administered to the public.

Earlier, China gifted 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and promised to send another 600,000 by June 13.

– COVID-19 cases

According to the ministry, the country reported 38 more deaths, bringing the total number of virus-related fatalities to 12,839, and COVID-19 infections to 810,990, with over 1,676 fresh additions in the last 24 hours.

Among these, health officials have detected seven more instances of the Indian strain of coronavirus in a group of laborers in Dhaka, bringing the total "Delta" variant infections to 39 so far.

On April 26, the country closed its land borders with India until June 14. Despite the travel ban, over 4,000 Bangladeshis returned from India in a month due to the high infection rates in India.