Bangladesh garment workers pack streets to demand wages during lockdown

April 18, 2020

Garment workers in Bangladesh protested on Saturday against non-payment of wages amid the Covid-19 lockdown. — (AP Photo/Al-emrun Garjon)

But health officials have warned that the infection could still spread fast through the surrounding South Asia region, home to a fifth of the world’s population where millions live in packed slums with fragile public health systems.

Neighbouring India reported 991 new cases and 42 new deaths from the virus on Saturday, taking the total number of reported cases to 14,378 and deaths to 480.

Indian health ministry official Lav Agarwal told reporters some districts had not reported any new cases. But he urged people to stick to social distancing rules. “This is a battle for which we have to stay vigilant continuously,” he said.

India is in the fourth week of a nationwide shutdown, though the government has said it will allow industries in the countryside to reopen and some farms to resume work next week.

Sri Lanka’s government said on Saturday it would partially ease restrictions from April 20.

Bangladesh has sent troops out into the streets to help enforce a shutdown on travel and restrictions on gatherings.

In Chittagong, the crowds of workers on the streets said they were still waiting for last month’s wages.

Police had talked to one factory owner who had promised to make the payments by April 28, local officer Mohammad Zamiruddin told Reuters.

Bangladesh’s government last month launched a $588 million package to help companies in the crucial garments sector pay staff during the pandemic, but manufacturers have said it is not enough.

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