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Zilani Jamaddar, hailing from Patuakhali district, would work at the Bhojonghar restaurant in Gulshan, Dhaka.

He lived at a rented house with his wife, two daughters and a son in Badda area.

As the government imposed a seven-day lockdown from 5 April, the Bhojonghar owner shut the restaurant, leaving Zilani and his colleagues unemployed.

Zilani still bears the bitter experience of the 66-day shutdown the government had imposed during the first wave of coronavirus. That’s why, he left Dhaka soon after the government had enforced the lockdown.

Abu Bakkar Siddique, former manager at Baishakhi, a Cox’s Bazar-based restaurant, has a similar story to tell. He lost his job too due to the lockdown. But he pays visit to his former job station regularly. Meeting the expense of his four-member family seems a challenge to him at present.

Prothom Alo correspondent talked to Siddique on 7 April. He said, “Baishakhi restaurant had a team of 29-member staff. None of them are on the board now. We don’t know when the restaurant will reopen. We will have to starve in case the lockdown continues for several more days.”

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Zilani and Abu Bakkar are representing thousands of workers of hotels and restaurants worrying about the difficult time ahead as earning breads for their family members seems very challenging to them.

The Covid-19 restrictions including the lockdown prohibit the sit-and-eat arrangement at the hotel and restaurants. Only food parcel service is allowed.

The restrictions resulted in shutdown of 80 per cent of Dhaka city-based restaurants, said Khandaker Ruhul Amin, chief adviser to Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association.

“The anti-Covid-19 drives do not bind us to close the restaurant. But the changing situation makes this impossible to keep restaurants open because of low turnout of customers. Owners of the restaurants share a similar experience,” he said.

About 250,000 staff members work at around eight thousand hotels and restaurants in Dhaka, Khandaker Ruhul Amin informed.

Blanket layoff in Cox’s Bazar

According to Cox’s Bazar Motel Guesthouse Officers Association, around 30,000 people would work in 700 boarding-guest houses and restaurants in the district.

As the seven-day lockdown was enforced, at least 15,000 employees of the hospitality services were furloughed with immediate effect.

The association’s general secretary Karim Ullah said, “Despite several attempts, the furloughed workers have not yet received their salary for April.”

Economist MM Akash told Prothom Alo, “The hotel business is among the most affected sectors by the coronavirus infection. The government should have considered this earlier. This sector requires special emergency support. The government has announced emergency aid for the rural poor, leaving the urban ones out of the safety net.”

*This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman

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