Most were without face masks, dismissive of any social distancing
Although public transport remains suspended, thousands of people have started returning to their workplaces in Dhaka after celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr at home, by all kinds of transport, from ferries through waterways to three-wheelers, pickup vans, and private cars on roads.
People started moving to Dhaka for their livelihoods, showing little regard for health safety concerns amid the risk of coronavirus infection, even as Bangladesh on Friday recorded its largest single day spike in infections with news 2523 cases, reports UNB.
The government decided not to extend the general holidays after May 30, and permitted the movement of public transports in a limited extent.
Visiting Shimulia-Kathalbari river route on Friday morning, thousands of people were seen packed onto ferries, crossing the Padma to join their workplace in the capital.
Meanwhile, ferry terminal no. 3 was submerged as water increased in Padma River after heavy rainfall in the last few days.
Safayet Hossain, manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), said 14 ferries in total have been moving in this route but people are adamant and not maintaining physical distancing while crossing the river by ferries.
Among the returning population, very few were seen wearing face masks for health safety, he added.
Since the public transportation remained suspended, people had to pay four to five times the regular fare to motorbikes, pickup vans, and trucks when returning to Dhaka.
Many of those who couldn’t afford the astronomical hikes were seen commencing the long walk to the city.
Alamgir Hossain, officer-in-charge (OC) of Louhajanj police station, said excessive pressure of passengers is preventing any attempt to maintain the rules.
Mawa River Police in-Charge Sirajul Kabir said speedboats are not plying with passengers but they continued patrolling in the river.
Two speedboats and 43 trawlers were seized for carrying passengers violating the rules, he mentioned.
In Manikganj, thousands of people returned to the capital to join workplaces through Doulatdia ferry terminal in the district.
Thousands of people and their families reportedly crossed the Padma on Friday.
Roich Uddin, an official of a private firm in Dhaka, said his office administration called on Thursday night and asked to join the office on Saturday.
Goalanda Ghat police station OC Ashiqur Rahman said they have been advising people to cross Padma on separate ferries instead of crowding.
People dismissed their instructions and made huge crowds in each ferry, remarked the OC, adding that it is quite impossible to maintain social distancing in this situation.
Mahbub Ali Sardar, assistant manager, Doulatdia BIWTC, said a total of eleven ferries carried vehicles and people on Friday.
Mass entrance from northern districts
Besides river routes, thousands of people were seen coming to Dhaka from the northern districts using the Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail routes.
Working people returned to their workplaces in Dhaka by pickup vans, private cars, motorbikes, three-wheelers, and CNG-run auto rickshaws.
Most of the returning people refrained from maintaining physical distancing in the vehicles, nor was it possible.
Several returning passengers said they counted extra fare.
Gazipur Metropolitan Police (GMP) Commissioner said police are working to ensure passengers’ safety.
Police will be active in ensuring social distancing when public transports start moving in limited scale, he added.
The government has decided not to extend the ongoing general holidays after May 30, as per State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain.
“People will not be allowed to travel from one district to another. Their movement will be strictly controlled in every district and check posts will be set up at the entry and exit points of the districts,” Farhad mentioned.
Educational institutions will remain closed till June 15 but online classes will continue. Markets and shops will remain open from 10am to 4pm but they will have to follow health guidelines, he further mentioned.
Bangladesh has so far reported 42,844 coronavirus cases and 582 deaths.