• Tuesday, Mar 31, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:21 am

Covid-19: Public transport on halt

  • Published at 12:38 pm March 24th, 2020
Our transportation sector still has way too many problems
File photo of public trasports on Dhaka street Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Both private and public sectors, except emergency services, would come to a standstill

Bangladesh has imposed a travel ban on all modes of transport – rail, road, air, and waterways – across the country to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision comes a day after the government declared a 10-day shutdown, effective from Thursday to April 4, to tackle the spread of the virus and to ensure social distancing and isolation.

Both private and public sectors, except emergency services, would come to a standstill.

Covid-19 has claimed four lives and infected 39 people in the country, thus far.

Many people were already seen at Dhaka’s bus terminals and railway stations since Monday evening to book advance tickets to head back home after the government announced a 5-day public holiday.

Including the public holiday for Independence Day on Wednesday, and two weekends, all offices – both public and private – are expected to be closed for the next 10 days, as per government directives.

Although the decision for the shutdown was made to discourage any movement by encouraging people to stay home and isolate, a huge rush of people started moving towards their villages.

Road transport shut for 10 days

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, in a videoconference, on Tuesday said all public road transport will be suspended for 10 days from March 26 to April 4.

Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The country’s Road Transport Act considers any motorized vehicle transporting paying customers as public transport.

Therefore, all commercial passenger vehicles such as buses, taxis, auto rickshaws, and other human haulers (such as Nasimon, Porimon) will fall under the purview of the restriction. People can only move around using rickshaws as per the act.

“At the same time, additional passengers will also not be allowed to commute on trucks or other goods-laden vehicles on the road during the period,” said Quader, also the Awami League general secretary.

However, trucks and covered vans carrying medicines, emergency services, fuel, and perishable goods, are exempt from the travel ban.

Railway closed indefinitely

Passenger rail, including inter-district trains, and launch services have also been suspended indefinitely across the country to control the spread of the virus.

Earlier, Bangladesh Railway suspended all local, commuter, and mail train services across the country from Monday midnight.

“The suspension shall remain in force till further notice,” said Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan at a press conference at Rail Bhaban in Dhaka, on Tuesday. 

Currently, 348 trains – including intercity and local – are functioning across Bangladesh.

However, the minister said, Bangladesh Railway will be prepared to operate special trains in case of emergencies. Only freight trains will continue operating during this time.

A specially maintained control room will be in operation soon to ensure the security of Bangladesh Railway to avoid sabotage during the holidays, he added.

Waterways shut until further notice

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) suspended all passenger launch services across the country starting on Tuesday, until further notice over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“All passenger launch services will remain suspended until further notice,” announced State Minister for Shipping, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, by video conference, on Tuesday.

He said: “Alongside passenger launches, ferry services have also been closed across the country. However, a limited number of ferries will operate to ferry emergency transport including ambulances.”

No passengers would be allowed to use the ferry services, as per the government directive.

Domestic flights suspended

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has also decided to suspend all domestic flights from Wednesday.

CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mofidur Rahman made the announcement on Tuesday.

Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

From Tuesday, Bangladesh's armed forces started assisting the administration in every divisional and district town, to ensure that people maintain social distancing and are taking precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Educational institutions closed till April 10

Educational institutions will stay closed during this period but banks will remain open to facilitate financial transactions for their clients.

Covid-19 which was first reported in China’s Wuhan has killed at least 17,226 people across the world and infected 394,605 till date.

At least 103,710 people have recovered from the virus which has spread to 196 countries, according to worldometer.info.

Hasan Al Javed contributed to this report