Passengers travel through land ports randomly amid the worst spell of Covid-19 in the neighbouring country
Bangladesh has no plans to immediately suspend land and water connectivity with India, even though the next-door neighbour is facing the deadliest spell of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rather, Bangladesh is continuing all types of trade and commerce with India using the river, sea and land ports amid the countrywide strict lockdown.
Only the air connectivity has remained suspended with India during this lockdown as both countries are struggling to tackle the surge of Covid-19.
Experts fear that the new Indian strain may enter Bangladesh through the movement via the open ports.
Meanwhile, scientists in India have identified a new Covid-19 mutation known as the "triple-mutant" in West Bengal. It might be more infectious than the previous strain known as the “double-mutant (B.1.617)” reported last month as it might be capable of escaping a person’s immune surveillance.
When contacted, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said he was not aware of any decision on snapping water and land connectivity with India.
“During this lockdown, our sea, river and land ports are open as emergency services... But as of now, I have not heard of any discussion or decision regarding the suspension of connectivity,” he told the Dhaka Tribune on Friday afternoon.
Of the 12 land ports, only the one in Benapole is being used for both passengers and goods, while the rest for transporting emergency goods from and to India, according to Bangladesh Land Port Authority.
But several sources said the land ports in Akhaura and Banglabandha were also open for passengers on a limited scale.
Mamun Kabir Torofdar, deputy director (traffic) of Benapole Land Port, said: “On average, some 400 passengers and 600 trucks are randomly travelling through the port.”
A medical team stationed at the port is working to ensure that no person enters the country unexamined.
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“If a passenger enters Bangladesh from India with a Covid-19 negative certificate, we recommend a 14-day home isolation to them. If someone comes with Covid-19 symptoms, we directly send them to Jashore General Hospital,” he said.
In addition, some Indian workers employed in some projects in Bangladesh, including Rampal power plant in Bagerhat, are coming from India amid this lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Shipping Ministry has said that Chittagong Port, Mongla Port, Payra Port and some others inland-water ports are operating activities with India during this lockdown. But no passenger vessels are operating from and to India now.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on April 11 suspended operation of all international passenger flights including to and from India from April 14, when the strict lockdown was enforced.
CAAB Chairman Air Vice-Marshal Mafidur Rahman said: “Flight operations with India will resume only when the government lifts the suspension.”