Thursday, 28 October, 2021
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PM’s online engagement triples amid pandemic

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s official engagement through video conferences or online platforms has almost tripled in the last eight months compared  to the last year’s as the COVID-19 pandemic saw Bangladesh spinning around overnight from real interactions to the online space.

“She (the premier) took part in 475 video conferences in 2020 while the number of her online official engagement stood at  1083 in the past eight months,” Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) secretary M Tofazzel Hossain Miah on Tuesday told BSS.

He said the premier’s online activities increased rapidly as pandemic stretched its claws, forcing tightened restrictions against physical interactions, while most of her meetings were of extra-importance in fixing or executing government decisions.

Hossain said the premier’s enhanced online presence also expedited the execution of government  decisions as she reached out officials and others concerned including public representatives at grassroots, alongside the policymakers at the central level.

He said since 2020, the online platform linked the prime minister with 1,558 spots across Bangladesh, when she interacted with cross section of people including public representatives, field-level officials and social figures.

During the pandemic the premier also joined several global events and conferences that fixed international policies and spearheaded global campaigns particularly in the interest of Bangladesh and other disadvantaged countries.

Several officials at the field level said the zoom meetings with the country’s head of the government gave marginalised staff an inclusive feeling in the crisis management and other nation-building activities.

“This practice put remote field-level officials like us and the more junior ones on an equal footing with the top government office of the country . . . this rejuvenated us in delivering our duties,” a deputy commissioner said, preferring anonymity.

The prime minister held Bangladesh’s first major official video conference with eight administrative divisional headquarters in 2015 against the backdrop of the rise of militancy.

“That was the country’s first official video conference when she was linked with public representatives, divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners, police officials and social figures including religious leaders and teachers,” Hossain said. According to the PMO secretary the premier started attending the video conferences alongside joining meetings in person from 2015 and until 2019 she took part 696 video conferences connecting with different spots.

Bangladesh detected the first three COVID-19 cases on March 8, 2020 and reported the first death on March 18 that year while authorities enforced the first lockdown from March 26, 2020 to May 30, 2020.

The possibility of the reappearance  of the pandemic with an extra rage prompted the government to put in place movement and some other health restrictions from April 5 to April 12, 2021  and subsequently imposed the second shutdown from April 14 to May 23, 2021.

But the coronavirus reemerged with an extra wrath in the form of deadly Delta variant after a recess, eventually forcing authorities to enforce a tighter lockdown or nationwide shutdown from July 1 till date with a brief recess due to Eid-ul-Azha.