Holidayers rush back to city

Lockdown extended until May 23

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of people have started returning to Dhaka through Banglabazar in Madaripur and Shimulia in Munshiganj on Sunday. 

The pressure of Dhaka-bound passengers and vehicles has been increasing since Sunday morning. A handful of ferries have been active. However, if the pressure of passengers and vehicles increases further, all the ferries will be brought into operation.

There was a mad rush of people to come back to their destinations. However, the health guidelines and social distancing were hardly followed by the mass.

Crowds of the passengers and vehicles have been at the wharf since Sunday morning. 

Passengers had to suffer to cross the river to reach their destinations. Moreover, people were breaking  their journey using private cars, microbuses and motorcycles, eventually paying a high fare as there is a restriction on the movement of buses. 

According to BIWTC Ghat sources, five people on two ferries on the Banglabazar-Shimulia waterway died two days before the Eid due to the extreme pressure of homebound people, scorching heat and mad rush. Since then, 15 out of 18 ferries have been remained active. Pressure of passengers has been increasing since Sunday morning. Members of the law enforcement agencies have been working to bring the situation under control.

BIWTC Banglabazar Ferry Manager Salahuddin Ahmed said, "We have 18 ferries in our fleet. As the pressure of passengers and vehicles heading towards Dhaka has been increasing since the morning, 15 ferries have been operating so far. If the pressure of passengers and vehicles increases further, all the ferries will be run."

Passengers said that they had to rush to their workplaces as many of the offices and factories will open from today. So, they have to reach Dhaka as soon as possible. They are now returning to work, after celebrating the Eid with their families.

Banglabazar Ghat Traffic Police Inspector Ashikur Rahman said, "Passengers are heading to Dhaka to join the workplace after the Eid holidays. The pressure of Dhaka-bound passengers has increased since the morning. The ferries are full of passengers. There is not enough space for vehicles in the ferries."

He also said that members of the upazila administration, police and fire service are working to control vehicles and passengers at the wharf.

The large number of people returning to Dhaka without following health guidelines increased the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The government on Sunday again extended the ongoing restrictions for another week until May 23 with two new directives alongside the existing ones to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

The Cabinet Division also issued a circular in this regard on Sunday.

Meanwhile, thousands of people had left Dhaka and their workplaces elsewhere in the country before the Eid-ul-Fitr despite the restriction imposed by the government. In the same way, thousands of people are now returning to capital Dhaka and their other workplaces from their village homes.

It seems, mass people are not obeying the government instructions while the government is also not taking any strict measure to those who are violating the restrictions.  

Earlier, on May 5, the government extended the countrywide lockdown until May 16. 

The circular issued by the government on Sunday said that all the offices and agencies relating to revenue collection will be considered as emergency service providers.

Besides, restaurants and eateries will remain open with only takeaway/online services.

As coronavirus cases kept growing at an alarming rate since mid-March, the government had imposed a ‘loose’ nationwide lockdown for one week from April 5 as part of its move to contain its spread.

Later, a ‘stricter’ lockdown was announced from April 14 to 21. On April 28, the government again extended the lockdown until May 5 and issued six fresh directives as the country is struggling to contain the Covid-19 transmission.

On April 23, the Cabinet Division issued a notice allowing shops and shopping malls to operate from April 25 (10am-5pm) on a condition that they would maintain proper safety protocols.

It should be mentioned that the pass people are returning to Dhaka even after the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on Sunday urged the Eid holidaymakers to return to the capital after 7-14 days if they do not have any urgency as there is a need to check mass gatherings.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing, DGHS spokesperson Dr Nazmul Islam also issued a warning that there is no room for complacency in the declining trend in infection rate since Bangladesh is still in the middle of the second wave of Covid-19.

“The government advised us not to leave our respective dwellings (in cities) and stay there during this Eid. But we’ve seen, a large number of people went back to their village homes in various ways ignoring the advice,” he said.

Dr Nazmul said, “We humbly request those who’ve gone home to return at least 7-14 days later if their offices are not yet reopened and if they don’t face any losses for being late.”

Besides, he said, those who have Covid symptoms must undergo RT-PCR tests at the nearest health complexes or district sadar, specialised or medical college hospitals.