Mad rush back to reach capital

Ahamed Ullah

29 May, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Social distancing, health rules fall on deaf ears, raising fear of further corona spread

Thousands of people were seen making their ways to capital on Thursday without paying heed to social distancing or health rules, raising the fear of coronavirus (Covid-19) spread further.

As there was no public transport on the road, the Dhaka-bound people were seen returning by using private cars, microbus, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and motorbikes on Thursday after celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr.

Many were getting on trucks and pick-up vans without maintaining social distancing and health rules. Crowds of Dhaka-bound people and vehicles were also seen moving on the city streets on Thursday.

People are breaking social distancing and health guidelines everywhere while returning to capital fearing further spread of coronavirus.

Thousands of people gathered at Shimulia Ferry Ghat of Munshiganj and Paturia Ferry Ghat of Manikganj on Thursday morning for returning to Dhaka.

Md Shafiqul Islam, AGM of BIWTC Shimulia ferry terminal, said people have been coming to Shimulia with their families from Kathalbari since morning but they are not maintaining social distancing and hygiene rules.

“All the ferries are not operating due to inclement weather. A total of 10 ferries including four Ro-Ro, four co-type, and 2 medium ferries are carrying the passengers and the vehicles very carefully,” he added.

He said, “It takes more time for the ferries to come and go. We are trying to make the crossing smooth. A small ferry named Karnafuli was kept standby. It will be used in case of emergency.”

The passengers, who are coming to Shimulia Ferry Ghat, faced another trouble due to lack of public transport. They were seen leaving for their destinations in small cars, autorickshaws, motorcycles and even in pick-up vans or trucks.

They were forced to pay high price for reaching their destination. Some unlucky people did not manage to get any transport at all and decided to walk to their destination.

Sirajul Kabir, in-charge of Mawa River Police Station, said, “We are working for the safety of the passengers but the passengers are not listening to us.”

“No one has patience. They are rushing to the Ferry Ghat and taking risks for going to their respective destinations,” he said.

Rajib Hasan, a private employee, said: “Eid is over. Now it’s time to get back to work. My office will open from Sunday (May 31). So, I came today to escape the mad rush of Saturday (May 30).”

“I have come to the Shimulia Ferry Ghar from Naria of Shariatpur by changing several vehicles. Let’s see what I can manage to reach Dhaka,” he added.

The pressure of Dhaka-bound passengers and private vehicles has also increased at Daulatdia Ghat in Rajbari from Thursday.

Abu Abdullah Rony, Manager (Commerce) of Daulatdia Ferry Ghat of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), said six ferries were plying on the Daulatdia-Paturia route for vehicles and passengers.

Hundreds of small vehicles are waiting for the ferry on the bypass road of Daulatdia Ferry Ghat, he added.

Goalanda Ghat Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ashikur Rahman said that people in the ghat area and ferries are being advised to follow the hygiene rules. Law enforcers are working to ensure the safety of passengers.

People were seen stuffing into auto-rickshaws, pickup, trucks and human haulers on the Dhaka-Tangail-Bangabandhu bridge highway, Tangail bypass road and in Mirzapur and Elenga areas.

However, the number of vehicles in Dhaka on Thursday is a little more than that on Wednesday. Meanwhile, office and shops in Motijheel, the busiest area of Dhaka, are still closed. Launches and rail services are also closed.

However, if public transport is introduced from May 31, the need to return is expected to increase.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government imposed a lockdown on March 26, closing all offices and educational institutions while shutting down public transport.

The lockdown has since been extended in phases, most recently until May 30. While the government rolled back some restrictions, allowing shops, malls, mosques and garment factories to reopen on a limited scale, it continues to enforce the suspension of public transport services.

On Thursday the government has decided not to extend the ongoing general holiday after May 30. It has issued a gazette notification on Thursday allowing limited operation of public transport and offices from May 31 to June 15 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

However, there are some directives and restrictions that need to be followed till June 15.

It said public transport – buses, trains and vessels – will have to maintain health guidelines.

All government, semi-government and autonomous offices will resume under self-management but ailing staff and pregnant women have been asked to refrain from joining work, the notification said.

Everyone has to wear face masks and strictly follow 13-point health directives. During the period, all officials are directed not to leave their workstations.

Educational institutions will remain closed during this period.

Meanwhile, the government has permitted markets and shops to remain open from 10am to 4pm on condition that they follow health rules.

The health authorities announced detection of 2,029 new patients in the last 24 hours, raising the total cases to 40,321. Fifteen more people died from coronavirus during this period, taking the death toll to 559.