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Dhaka Tribune

Public transports suspended, thousands leave Dhaka

Private cars, institutional transports, buses or minibuses carrying employees and workers, goods laden vehicles, and construction vehicles will be allowed on roads in the lockdown

Update : 05 Apr 2021, 12:03 AM

Thousands of people left Dhaka on Sunday as buses, trains and launches are to be suspended from Monday till April 11 to contain the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths

Although public transports have been suspended, emergency service vehicles and vehicles carrying essential goods, fuel, medicine, relief items, newspapers and garment products will be allowed to ply the roads, waterways, and railways. 

There are no restrictions on private vehicles, and privately-owned companies have been asked to arrange transport for their employees. 

However, all movement will be restricted between 6pm and 6am the next day, according to the official notification. 

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader announced the restrictions on public transports during a press briefing on Sunday. Earlier in the day, similar announcements were made by the Shipping and Railway Ministries. 

Following the announcements, thousands of people rushed to bus and launch terminals to leave Dhaka. However, there was less of a rush than when lockdowns were first announced last year, as offices, RMG factories and other industries are set to stay open this time.

Most of the people who left Dhaka were unemployed or in poverty.

Lax enforcement of health guidelines on public transports

The government last week issued a circular instructing buses, trains, launches and other public transports not to carry more than 50% of their passenger capacity. Buses and launches were allowed to hike fares by 60%, effective from March 31, to make up operating costs.

However, most transports that left Dhaka on Sunday were extremely overcrowded, with no scope for maintaining social distancing. Government agencies did not appear to be taking any special steps to enforce health guidelines at the terminals.

Mobile courts to enforce health guidelines and ensure there were no unauthorized ticket price hikes were conducted at the Gabtoli bus counter in the morning, but there were no such measures in the evening. 

“I am leaving Dhaka as my shop will be closed during the lockdown,” said Ashfar Ali, a shoe seller in New Market who was waiting for a train at Kamalapur Railway Station.

When asked if he feared becoming infected on the congested train, he said: “Yes, it is risky. The authorities failed to manage the crowd.”

Sarwar Alam, station master of Kamalapur Railway Station, said: “We tried to manage the crowd, but the sudden rush overwhelmed the staff.”

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