DHAKA: Tens of thousands of people defied government restrictions to attend the funeral of a religious leader in eastern Bangladesh on Saturday.
People from different parts of the country travelled to the eastern Brahmanbaria district for the last rites of Muslim preacher Jubayer Ahmad Ansari, who was also the deputy head of an Islamic political party, the Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
Local media, citing residents and police officials, reported that around 100,000 people attended the funeral despite a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Despite repeated attempts, Anadolu Agency was unable to reach any top officials of the Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
However, an official of a political alliance that includes the party said the turnout at the funeral was a testament to Ansari's popularity and blamed authorities for not being able to prevent the mass gathering.
Taraweeh, Eid prayers to be done at home amid coronavirus: Saudi grand mufti
"He [Ansari] was a renowned religious leader. He was very popular among the people and that is why they were willing to flout government orders to pay their respects," Khalilur Rahman Madani, chief coordinator of an Islamic parties' alliance, told Anadolu Agency.
"The local administration was well aware of his popularity and they should have taken more measures to stop the mass gathering. I hope they learn from this failure and are more alert in future."
Police officer Shahadat Hossain Tipu told Anadolu Agency that officials met Ansari's family members multiple times on Friday night and urged them to hold the funeral with only close relatives.
"We never thought that such a large number of people would show up at a time when there is a countrywide lockdown. They came from all sides -- even through the fields and other normally unused routes," Tipu said.
"All of this happened within a very short span of time; it was totally out of our control."
Turkey's coronavirus cases overtake Iran, highest in the Middle East
The massive gathering has raised fears of a potential spike in Covid-19 transmission in Brahmanbaria district, which has 18 cases and three deaths so far.
The overall count in Bangladesh crossed 2,000 with the death toll nearing 100 on Saturday.
The government said 306 people tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, raising the total to 2,144.
Total fatalities reached 84 as nine more patients died, while eight more recoveries brought the total to 66.
After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.
The pandemic has killed nearly 156,000 people, and infected in excess of 2.27 million, while nearly 579,000 patients have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.