STREETS wear a deserted look following the start of lockdown in Dhaka on Wednesday.—AP
STREETS wear a deserted look following the start of lockdown in Dhaka on Wednesday.—AP

DHAKA: Thousands of police patrolled the empty streets of the Bangladesh capital on Wednesday as the government enforced a strict nationwide lockdown to combat a deadly new coronavirus wave.

Normally jammed with some of Asia’s worst gridlock, Dhaka took on the air of a ghost town as officers set up checkpoints across the city of 20 million people to ensure no-one ventured out without a special pass.

Wednesday was the first day of the Bengali new year, when millions normally flock to traditional rallies in major cities, as well as the first day of Ramazan.

But all festivities have been called off for the second year because of the coronavirus threat.

Bangladesh has been swept for the past month by a fresh coronavirus wave that has seen daily infections rise seven-fold and deaths triple.

The South Asian country has recorded roughly 700,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths in all.

Tens of thousands of people packed the last trains, buses and ferries before the lockdown came into force at 6am (midnight GMT).

A Dhaka police spokesman said he had only seen “a handful” of people on the streets on the first day of the transport ban, as well as the closure of offices and stores.

For eight days, people are only allowed out to buy food and medicines or for medical emergencies.

Officers are checking online movement passes, issued for the first time.

National police chief Benazir Ahmed ordered all officers to strictly enforce the measure in a call with police chiefs across the country of 168 million people.

“During the government restrictions, no one should step out of their homes unnecessarily,” he said.Pandemic curfews are being enforced in many Indian cities as fresh cases again hit new highs, while the number of dead in one day rose above 1,000 for the first time since September.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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