Transport owners and leaders claim they have provided equipment to maintain hygiene and directives on strictly following health guidelines to all staff
The government’s move of reopening transport and offices on a limited scale to keep the economy afloat may have an adverse effect on the Covid-19 situation, and put paid to all previous shutdown measures since health guidelines are vastly neglected.
Health experts and local government bodies across Bangladesh have urged one and all to practise social distancing to curtail the spread of the virus as they warn of a worsening situation in the country.
On the other hand, transport owners and leaders have claimed that they have provided equipment to maintain hygiene and directives on strictly following health guidelines for all staff, including drivers, supervisors and their helpers.
Visiting several inter-district bus terminals at Dhaka’s Mohakhali, Gabtoli, Sayedabad, and talking with several transport agencies, Dhaka Tribune found that health guidelines, especially social distancing measures, were ignored on a large scale as passengers travelled freely and carelessly, using mass transport and other vehicles. Buses on some routes, however, have fewer passengers than usual, which ensures social distancing to an extent.
In contrast, social distancing is not being enforced on routes where buses are carrying more passengers.
In addition, on local transport vehicles, including human haulers such as tempo, Nosimon, etc., which ferry passengers in residentials areas in the capital, passengers crowded into vehicles as drivers would not start a trip until all seats were occupied.
Bus driver Abdul Halim said the public transport people were making sure everyone, including staff and passengers, wore face masks. “We forbid passengers from getting on board without masks.”
A visit inside the bus showed his words to be true. Ironically, though, the driver and the passengers did not follow social distancing measures themselves.
Wearing masks on the chin, leaving the face and nose uncovered, they were seen touching their eyes, faces, noses, and mouths frequently.
Especially when collecting fares, both passengers and conductors were seen negotiating fares by removing their masks.
When asked why they did not follow health directives, passenger Roton Sorkar said the scorching heat and dust inside the bus made passengers uncomfortable and unable to breathe. “First they need to keep the buses clean and only then will coronavirus infections be reduced.”
Another bus driver, Hafizur Rahman, said: “Passengers are not readily available now. Most of the seats remain empty. We did not make any profits after hiking the bus fares.”
Another bus driver, Hossen Ali, said before passengers get on the bus, they disinfect their hands with sanitizers, but he declined to comment on maintaining social distance protocols inside the bus.
About such intersections as those at Rampura, Badda, Banasree and Hatirjheel, said traffic police sergeant Abdul Ahad: “As and when we stop the buses and other vehicles, only then do they [drivers and helpers] put on masks. Otherwise their faces remain uncovered.”
“Normally passengers are few in some buses so social distance is being maintained automatically. But the big question now is how long will the passengers abide by it,” the traffic sergeant added.
As for social distancing on flights, Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal Md Mofidur Rahman said: “We are monitoring whether the passengers and the airlines are following all the hygiene rules and other instructions.”
He said all measures had been taken at the airports to ensure the health and safety of passengers of the resumed flights.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s personal physician Dr ABM Abdullah has said: “We need both lives and livelihood but we need to strictly follow health guidelines and take actions against those violating them.”
Otherwise, the virus can easily be transmitted while passengers and conductors handle fares, especially since no one knows who is infected with Covid-19.
“If we want to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the only way to do it is to stop community transmission by practising social distancing. Dhaka is a densely populated city. So, day by day passengers will overcrowd transport. The Covid-19 situation will then worsen and the virus will hit with double the force than it does now,” physician Dr ABM Abdullah warned.