The premier thanked the WEF president and the Forum for taking such an initiative at a critical time in the history of mankind.

She said that the entire world is fighting against an invisible and unknown enemy, called COVID-19 that so far has claimed over 185 thousand lives.

Mentioning that Bangladesh reported the first COVID-19 case on March 8, Sheikh Hasina said the government has taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus from the very beginning of January.

Illustrating her government’s measures to combat the lethal virus, she said that a 41-day holiday is in-force with bringing almost three-fourth of the country under lock down.

“Our measures could keep the fatalities still at low with 127 deaths and 4,186 infecting in the last 47 days,” she added.

Noting that as a developing country, Bangladesh is facing twin shocks – both supply and demand — due to the pandemic, the premier said the government has undertaken some measures to get rid of the blows.

“I’ve already announced an 11.60 billion dollars package for various sectors of our economy which is equivalent to 3.5% of our GDP,” she said, adding the primary focus of this package will be on manufacturing and service sectors, agriculture and social safety net facilities.

Describing food security as a regional challenge, the prime minister said as of now, Bangladesh has sufficient food stock. “But ensuring food security in case of a prolonged crisis will be a big challenge for all, especially for the South Asian countries,” she said.

The prime minister said that Bangladesh’s agriculture is being adversely affected due to disruption of supply chains.

“Around 3 billion dollars have been allocated for agriculture to cope with adverse impact,” she noted.

She said her government is going for direct cash transfer to almost 50 million people while six hundred thousand metric tons of food grains have so far been allocated to succor the poor and low-income people.

Turning to Rohingyas, Sheikh Hasina said as Bangladesh is hosting 1.1 million Rohingya nationals, the government also included them in its overall strategy.

“Our policy mechanisms have focused on ensuring the GDP growth momentum by gearing up domestic demand, enhanced competitiveness and poverty eradication,” she said.

In this regard, the premier said her government’s main interventions will be increased public expenditure, introduced fiscal packages, expanded social safety net programmes and increased money supply.

World Health Organization’s Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh later gave special briefing over the COVID-19 situation and the measures to be taken to fight the crisis arising out of the pandemic.

Head of WEF’s Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare Arnaud Bernaert provided important insights over the coronavirus situation from the Forum’s Healthcare Community.

The moderator later opened the floor and called upon relevant contributors to share their views for the participants who are members of the Regional Action Group for the South Asia.