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Referring to claims made on social media that the virus could spread through newspapers, the association, in a statement issued on Wednesday, said that such an idea had no basis. They said that several offices and banks unsubscribed for some days as there were rumors that the newspaper would serve as a carrier of the virus.
Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, citing research findings that newspapers do not spread coronavirus, requested people to keep reading newspapers.
Dhaka Sangbadpatra Hawkers Bohumukhi Samabay Samity Limited general secretary M Abdul Manan, however, said that the sale of newspapers saw a significant fall after a large number of people left Dhaka, the main hub of newspaper readers.
On March 25, editors of Sylhet-based newspapers decided to stop the publication of newspapers.
In a statement signed by Sylhet Mirror editor Ahmed Noor cited the looming ‘transportation difficulty’ for the suspension for an indefinite period. At least 13 newspapers are published from Sylhet.
Manab Zamin editor-in-chief Matiur Rahman Chowdhury told New Age on Wednesday that his decision to suspend the print edition of the newspaper came after coronavirus hit newspaper distribution badly disrupted.
Advertisement dropped sharply as well, he added.
He said that he also wanted not to push his staff members into risk since they did not have health insurance.
He said that Manab Zamin was not the first newspaper to cancel its print edition but many newspapers in countries such as Australia, Canada, and India suspended their print editions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He hoped that things would get back to normal after the crisis is over.
On March 28, hawkers of Chandpur district stopped selling all kinds of national and local newspapers in the district for the 10-day public holiday.
On March 27, Jashore Newspaper Owners Association in a meeting decided not to publish any newspaper till March 31 due to coronavirus scare, Mobinul Islam Mobin, general secretary of the association told New Age.
The newspaper industry in Bangladesh is facing serious troubles in both reaching the readers and continuing publishing the print editions in the prevailing coronavirus situation.
Bangla tabloid daily Manab Zamin suspended its print edition from Friday while some regional dailies from outside Dhaka also suspended their print editions.
Almost all newspapers reduced pages in their print editions and increased focus on the internet edition with the commitment to providing updated information.
Readers from different areas in the capital said that they were not getting newspapers for some days starting from March 24 as the government announced a 10-day holiday from March 26 and shut all public transports to check the spread of coronavirus.
Newspaper hawker leaders said that a good number of hawkers left Dhaka earlier to avoid the situation that arose out of the national shutdown.
The president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Molla Jalal, told New Age that the government should announce special incentives for journalists involved in the newspaper industry.
He also urged the newspaper owners to ensure necessary safety measures for journalists who are working during the COVID-19 emergency.
Information ministry secretary Kamrun Nahar told New Age that the ministry in a video conference suggested all the divisional commissioners take necessary measures to ensure the distribution of newspapers.
She said an initiative was necessary to provide an incentive to the newspaper industry to meet the losses for coronavirus impact and hoped that the ministry would take timely steps to this end. Bangladesh police have locked down a temple run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Hindu religious organization after 34 of its members were tested positive for coronavirus, officials said.
“As many as 34 members of ISKCON ashram in the capital’s Swamibag area have tested positive for coronavirus, and the temple has been completely locked down,” Aminul Islam, inspector investigation of Gendaria police station in Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
An official at the temple, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that some devotees in the temple had tested positive but said that their "health condition is stable.”
The official refused to provide any details on the number of devotees inside the temple and did not respond when asked if the religious site was still open, despite official orders to suspend religious activities during the pandemic.
Islam, however, said the temple was closed for visitors.
"Some of the ISKCON members are still inside the temple, which is closed for visitors for the last month," he said. "But now no one will be allowed to enter or come out from the temple as it has been locked down.”
Meanwhile, according to Bdnews24, a local news agency, over 100 people are residing in the temple. The Desh Rupantor newspaper, quoting residents, put this number at over 300.
The South Asian nation recorded its first COVID-19 infection on March 8. On March 26 it imposed a lockdown, which is in place until May 5. Under the restrictions, only emergency services are allowed to operate.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs issued an order on April 6, suspending all religious events, gatherings, and congregation prayers until further notice. Legal punitive measures will be taken against violators, it said.
For Tarawih prayers a maximum of 12 people, including the imam (who leads prayers) and muezzin (who calls for prayers), have been allowed in the mosque.
As of Sunday, 145 people have died of the virus while 122 have recovered in Bangladesh. Some 418 more were infected in the past 24 hours, bringing the national total to 5,416. It will resume the print edition once the situation normalizes, it's Executive Editor Shamim Abdullah Zahedy told bdnews24.com on Monday.
He said the print edition of the newspaper will be available on Tuesday, but not from Wednesday for now.
“We are giving maximum priority to the health and safety of our journalists and staff,” Shamim said. He also said never since its launch in 1996 has the daily broadsheet faced such a crisis.
“The Independent newspaper has decided to stop its print edition from April 08 (Wednesday) amid the prevailing COVID-19 risks and challenges in newspaper distribution,” the newspaper said in a report.
The Independent Editor M Shamsur Rahman, in a Facebook post on Monday, said, “The newspaper had been in circulation for over the past 25 years. But currently, our distribution has taken a major blow due to this pandemic.”
Some other national and local newspapers have also stopped printing as the number of circulations has dropped sharply due to fears of infection.