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Dhaka Tribune

Eid travellers swamp launch and ferry terminals flouting Covid safety rules

Cattle getting sick while waiting for hours on end to cross the Padma

Update : 17 Jul 2021, 03:28 PM

With the Covid-19 lockdown eased ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, homebound travellers continued to crowd Shimulia, Paturia, Daulatdia and Sadarghat terminals for the third day on Saturday.

As the number of travellers and vehicles kept increasing, long tailbacks were seen on both sides of the Padma River in the afternoon.

At Shimulia ghat in Munshiganj, launches were seen carrying as many passengers as possible while ignoring social distancing rules even though they were instructed to carry passengers at half capacity.

Massive crowds made it impossible to maintain social distancing guidelines at ferry terminals. Picture taken at Sadarghat on July 17, 2021 | Focus Bangla

Moreover, around 500 vehicles were seen waiting at the terminal to cross the Padma River as of 12:30pm.

Thirteen ferries and 83 launches were operating from the terminal on Saturday, according to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) sources.

Vehicles crammed onto a ferry at Shimulia terminal on July 17, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

Claiming the launches were carrying people at half capacity, BIWTA’s Shimulia ghat Naval Inspector Md Solaiman told Dhaka Tribune that magistrates and law enforcers were stationed at the docks to ensure adherence to health guidelines.

Sadarghat buzzing

An overflow of passengers was also seen at the Sadarghat launch terminal in Dhaka as well.

Despite law enforcers being present to enforce the Covid-19 safety rules, people at the terminal and on the vessels were seemingly reluctant to adhere to them, reports Bangla Tribune.

Passengers, many of them without masks, on board a ferry at Sadarghat on July 17, 2021 | Focus Bangla 

Launch owners were dismissive of government instructions as well as they were charging 60% more than the usual fare while keeping their vessels jam-packed.

Also Read - Launch services resume ahead of Eid

BIWTA Joint Director Joynal Abedin said: “Passengers are being warned repeatedly about health rules, we are asking them to wear masks. Besides, law enforcers and BIWTA officials are present at the terminal to raise awareness.”

Crowds of passengers at Shimulia ferry terminal on July 17, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

The BIWTA is supposed to take strict action against violators of hygiene rules. However, no passenger or launch owner at the terminal was seen facing action.

Cattle getting sick

Meanwhile, at Daulatdia ghat, hundreds of vehicles carrying passengers and sacrificial animals were waiting to cross the Padma River, creating a five-kilometre-long tailback.

Ferry traffic on the Daulatdia-Paturia route was also being disrupted by strong currents in the river, delaying vehicle transport. Traders expressed worry as cattle on trucks were getting sick while waiting endlessly to cross the river.

One of the cattle breeders said they arrived at the terminal at Friday midnight. “It is 10am [Saturday] now and we are yet to get on a ferry. The cows have been standing for a long time and are getting sick from the intense heat.”

At the Paturia ferry ghat, the pressure of home-goers is also increasing as time passes.

Trucks carrying cattle wait to board ferries at Daulatdia on July 17, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

Authorities were prioritizing passenger buses and small vehicles for crossing the river to reduce the travellers’ sufferings, while trucks carrying cargo and sacrificial animals were having to wait for hours on end, according to media reports.

However, the ferry authorities have reportedly kept the transport of vehicles carrying emergency goods on a normal schedule.

Restrictions relaxed

Bangladesh is set to celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha on July 21.

To ease the rush of shopping and homebound travel by Eid holidaymakers, the government starting from last Thursday relaxed the strict Covid-19 lockdown across Bangladesh for nine days -- allowing all types of public transport to resume operation.

Also Read- Covid advisory panel shocked by decision to relax lockdown

The nationwide strict lockdown was imposed earlier this month to curb the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths the past few weeks saw.

The relaxed restrictions will be in place until 8am July 23 in the interest of celebrating Eid, conducting pre-Eid business, keeping the country’s socio-economic condition and economic activities normal, the Cabinet Division had said in a notice.

The announcement of easing the lockdown, however, came just a day after Bangladesh recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases (13,768) in a day.

However, strict restrictions across the nation will resume from July 23 and will continue till August 5.

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