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People in mad rush to get back to Dhaka

Published : 28 May 2020 09:41 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 02:20 AM

A huge number of people are returning to the capital Dhaka to join work as per the government decision ignoring the risk of coronavirus infection.

The ban on public transport failed to contain the influx of Dhaka-bound people from different districts of the country on Thursday following the celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Thousands of people started coming back to Dhaka crowding ferries and boarding different vehicles ignoring social distancing after the government decided not to extend general holidays further.

From the morning, people from 21 southern districts of the country started coming back to the capital city through two major water routes on the River Padma. 

Many were also coming by different highways including Dhaka-Tangail and Dhaka-Chattogram national highways. All the highways of the country are now under pressure from people heading towards the capital. People are returning to Dhaka by private cars, ambulances, microbuses, lorries, motorcycles and other vehicles to join their workplaces. 

They are moving on roads and vehicles without maintaining social distancing. Some are carrying face masks, but are not wearing them.

Earlier on Monday, May 25, Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated amid the prevailing COVID-19 outbreak, and before the event, thousands of people left the capital without following social distancing.

As public transports were not on roads, the home-bound people rented private cars, microbuses, motorcycles and even goods-laden vehicles so that they could manage to travel. 

Earlier, police on Friday, May 22, announced withdrawal of all checkpoints of Dhaka as well as on the highways ahead of Eid.  The same situation continued on Thursday.

After 9:00am, a huge number of Dhaka-bound people thronged Daulatdia ferry terminal to cross the River Padma by Daulatdia-Paturia water channel. Hundreds of private cars and thousands of people on foot crowded the ferries without maintaining social distancing.

Zillur Rahman, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation deputy general manager (ferry service) at Aricha office, told the media that the pressure of Dhaka-bound people on cars was increasing. 

The pressure of capital-bound people was higher at Kathalbari-Shimulia channel, he said, adding that currently 16 ferries are plying on Daulatdia-Paturia channel.

A private worker Sakib Uz Doza said, “I heard the office will open. So, I went out from home to attend the job. I do not know how I will reach Dhaka. But I have to.”

He said, “I will lose my job if I cannot reach my office. So, I started for Dhaka.”

An official of a multinational company Istiaq Hossain, who was returning to Dhaka from Faridpur, said, “Office will open within a few days. That is why I am going to the capital to join my office.”

He said, “We are facing several problems in returning as public transports have not yet opened.”

Istiaq said he rented a private car for Tk 10,000 to go to the capital for joining work.

Now, the city has turned the main hotspot for the spread of coronavirus as all the areas are identified as clusters. So it is too risky to stay there, he added.

At the Gazipur intersection, passengers were boarding pickup vans. A senior official of the highway police’s Gazipur zone office said that the pressure of passengers on roads was less as the apparel workers had already joined their workplaces.

Passengers were seen boarding microbuses in queues beside the road at Paduar Bazar point in Cumilla. On the vehicles, they did not maintain social distancing.

Passengers on private cars, microbuses and motorcycles were seen at Gabtoli point in Dhaka.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police additional deputy commissioner of traffic division (Gabtoli) Md Sohel Rana said that the pressure of people coming to Dhaka was less than that on other Eid festivals.

However the pressure increased on Thursday, he said.

Sohel Rana also said that when they checked any microbus or private cars, the passengers did not want to admit that they rented the vehicles.

“Whenever we see that passengers on these vehicles are not following social distancing, we compelled them to follow it by forcing some of them to get off the cars,” he added.

River police outpost in-charge Sakhawat said, “Although public transport was closed, people who went home in private cars during Eid-ul-Fitr holidays, are now seen returning.”

Health experts feared that such kinds of activities would bring untold and uncountable disaster for the country as the virus is now passing its peak time.

Prof Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and virology expert said, “We are now passing a very crucial time as the novel coronavirus is passing its peak. But it’s very ominous as people are not maintaining the discipline that is now very much needed.”

He said people should follow the government instructions and maintain the health safety discipline to protect against the deadly virus.”

This month (June) is very crucial for us. We have to identify the number of corona patients and send them into isolation.”

The government should take steps immediately to increase the number of laboratories and tests, he added.

However, Bangladesh exceeded 40,000 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on Thursday as 2,029 more people tested positive overnight, the highest in a daily count, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

“Fifteen more fatalities were reported from the COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the death toll from the pandemic to 559,” it added.