The government has asked people of the country to stay indoors in a bid to contain Covid-19.
But for millions of workers of apparel factories, like all other low-income people, the practical lockdown has dealt a crushing blow to their livelihood.
Forced to stay inside without getting paid, many of the garment workers are now on the brink of starvation.
"I cannot express in words how much hardship I am going through to manage three meals a day for me and my family," said Shirina Akhter, a sewing operator at SK Clothing - a garment factory located at Ashulia in Savar.
"I have almost run out of money in the last few days as my factory has not yet paid our last month's (March) wage. Also, there is nobody to lend me some money here," said Shirina, whose day-labourer husband has also been sitting at home without work for the last 18 days due to the shutdown.
Expressing similar anguish, Shaheena Begum, an operator of Newest Fashion Limited located at Vogra in Gazipur district, said, "We have not got our salaries since February. Owners have been wasting time making promises to pay us."
"We have no food in our house. We also have outstanding house rents and dues to pay to grocery shops. I cannot go out for fear of coming across the people to whom I owe money."
Pointing out that Gazipur has been locked down, she said only local voters are getting government reliefs.
"Now we are left to starve to death," said Shaheena Begum.
The situation is the same for Ratna Akhter, an operator of Envoy Design in Ashulia, who is also uncertain about getting her salary for March.
"The apparel workers have been pushed to a state of starvation as most of them have not received their last month's wages yet," said Razequzzaman Ratan, president of Socialist Labour Front.
The workers had gone to their village homes after the factories were closed amid shutdown, but a few days later, when they heard that the factories would reopen, they returned to work and receive the previous month's wages.
"They were cheated twice by the government and garment owners -- on April 4 when they returned to the cities to resume work and receive wages, and on April 10," Ratan said, adding, "Now they are waiting for April 25 to receive their last month's salaries."
However, Envoy Group Managing Director and President of the Bangladesh Exporters Association Abdus Salam Murshedy on Saturday told The Business Standard that they will disburse March wages of their workers from Sunday (yesterday).
"Already we have paid workers in two out of our 12 units, including garments and textiles."
"Every day, we will try to pay 1,500 to 2,000 workers in each unit and open their Mobile Financial Service (MFS) accounts, as having workers' MFS accounts is mandatory for receiving financial assistance from the prime minister's Tk5,000 crore stimulus package," he said.
Salam expressed hope that all apparel workers would get their last month's wages by April 16.
The apex bodies of the garment and textile industries have also requested all apparel makers to give workers' wages within that date, he added.
Salam requested the Bangladesh Bank to issue a circular asking all Authorised Dealer (AD) banks to open branches on April 14 and remain open for the full banking hour till April 16 to help provide the apparel workers' wages within the stipulated timeframe.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Director Fazle Shameem Ehsan said, "A further extension of the general holiday will add to the suffering of apparel workers who have not received their wages for March and are living in locked-down areas such as Narayanganj and Mirpur."
"People are unable to move anywhere, even to banks and offices in areas which are on lockdown," he continued.
"As a result, garment workers face challenges in opening bank accounts or MFS accounts and making transactions."
Ehsan also mentioned that a good number of factories are scheduled to pay their workers by April 15 and 16.
"As per our association president's commitment, we are trying to get special permission from the home ministry to pay our workers under the current situation by maintaining the highest standards of social distancing," he added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Rubana Huq urged all to keep faith in them.
She said, "Banks are not fully operational. Owners are having difficulties as well."
Rubana, however, hoped that 80 percent of the factories will be able to pay the March salaries of their workers within the deadline.
"We have requested all members to put up notices on factory gates mentioning specific dates of payments."
"Workers want to be reassured. It is the responsibility of the owners to make the payment as per the promise," she added.
BGMEA sources said there are 2,276 running factories under the association. Of those, 761 had paid their workers by April 12.
Meanwhile, BKMEA sources said the association has 834 running factories. Of those, 317 had paid their workers by April 6.
The government on Friday further extended the ongoing nationwide shutdown till April 25 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Bangladesh.
Workers demonstrate for dues
Meanwhile, garment workers on Sunday staged demonstrations outside their workplaces demanding outstanding salaries.
The demonstrations were held in at least nine garment factories in Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Chattogram.
According to our local correspondents, the factories are East-West Group Industrial Park, Neway Fashion Ltd, Stylish Garments Ltd, Valmont Fashions Ltd, Florate Fashions Wears Pvt Ltd, BHIS Apparels Ltd in Gazipur, Coyote Garments and Fakir Apparels Ltd in Narayanganj, and MM Apparels Ltd in Chattogram.