People have once again crowded ferries after spending Eid with their families
After undertaking a long and arduous journey to their hometowns, Eid holidaymakers have started to return to the capital Dhaka defying coronavirus restrictions.
Thousands crowded the banks of the Padma River disregarding hygiene rules on Sunday to take the ferries on the Daulatdia-Paturia and Shimulia-Banglabazar routes.
As many as 16 ferries are operating on the Daulatdia-Paturia route carrying people and vehicles.
People, mostly from southern districts, have once again crowded ferries to return to Dhaka and its surrounding areas.
Holidaymakers are struggling to make their way back as the long-haul bus services are suspended because of the lockdown. Many were charged extra for their return to their places of work.
Alam Miah, who was returning from a southern district, said vehicle operators were charging exorbitant fares.
The pressure of passengers and vehicles will continue to increase, according to Firoz Khan, a BIWTC manager stationed at Daulatdia ferry terminal.
Eid travelers were also swarming onto ferries at the Banglabazar terminal in Madaripur.
Fifteen ferries are currently operating on the Banglabazar-Shimulia route.
The rush of passengers began early in the morning, said Ashiqur Rahman, a traffic inspector based at the terminal. The pressure of passengers will increase as the day passes by, according to him.
Ferries are overcrowded as launch and speedboat services from Banglabazar remain suspended.
Additional police forces have been deployed to control the rush of travellers.
Dhaka-Tangail Highway rather empty
Holidaymakers from the northern districts started flowing back to the capital Dhaka and surrounding areas on Sunday, but the traffic on the Dhaka-Tangail-Bangabandhu Bridge Highway was rather thin.
Al Amin, who drove to Tangail from Dhaka, said it took him only an hour and fifteen minutes.
It is usually a three-hour drive with regular traffic on the highway, according to him.
Despite a ban on long-haul services amid Covid-19 restrictions, buses from northern districts like Panchagarh, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Natore and Pabna were seen operating.
Officer-in-charge Yasir Arafat of Elenga highway police outpost in Tangail said they were taking legal actions against long-route buses.
“[But] many long-distance bus drivers have hit the streets despite being booked multiple times,” he added.
Mirza Shahadt, a driver of a Bogra-bound bus, said: “As I did not earn much during Ramadan, I had to loan money for Eid expenses.
"That is why I am out with the bus even though there are some risks — like I have already faced a [traffic violation] case.”
Travellers said they had to pay almost thrice the usual fare to secure transportation services.
Rubel Miah, who was heading out of Dhaka, said he had to pay Tk1,200 for a trip to Dinajpur instead of the usual Tk400-500.
In a bid to control the pandemic, the government had asked people not to travel to their hometowns for Eid-ul-Fitr. But hundreds of thousands still made the trip in the days before the festival.
The health authorities had urged the government take steps to slow the return of the people, who left the capital.
“On the occasion of the Eid, people went to their homes ignoring the health guidelines. That’s why recommendations have been made for delaying the return journey of those and taking measures so that they can return later,” Director General of Health Services ABM Khurshid Alam said on Friday.
The capacity to address the Covid-19 outbreak has been increased, he said before adding: “But we have limitations too.”
The government has extended the ongoing restrictions on public movement and gathering, for another week — until May 23— to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Md Rashedul Hasan in Rajbari, Abdullah Al Noman in Tangail provided inputs for this report