The number of Covid-19 cases was lower in other divisions compared to Dhaka, but that might change with this recent development
Amid the risk of worsening, the already threatening coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh, a vast number of people left Dhaka for their respective villages to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.
The influx continued for the second consecutive day, on Saturday, as the authorities concerned on Thursday said Eid holidaymakers can travel to their village homes in “private” vehicles as the ban on public transports ends on May 30.
Experts fear that the development may cost the countrymen heavily with coronavirus cases rising alarmingly.
A high-up in the police department said they were told by the government not to obstruct Eid travellers.
“They can travel by private vehicles like cars and microbuses. But public transports are not allowed to leave or enter Dhaka city,” he said.
At Gabtoli, it was seen that people were boarding microbuses, private cars, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, and motorbikes caring little about health issues despite the Covid-19 pandemic ripping through the country, with Dhaka being the “hotspot.”
However, earlier Dhaka Metropolitan Police on May 17 imposed restrictions on vehicular movement to and from the capital city.
Even Benazir Ahmed, the inspector general of police, on May 19 urged the city dwellers not to leave Dhaka, for the sake of the ongoing social distancing.
He also instructed police officials across the country to take measures to halt Eid journeys, to help stop the spread of coronavirus that until Saturday killed 452 people and infected 32,078 people.
A chance to see loved ones at last
Nazrul Islam, a businessman residing at ShanirAkhra, came to Gabtoli bus terminal along with his family members, with the purpose of going to his village home in Tangail.
Since the government relaxed the travel rules for Eid holidaymakers, they went to the terminal and finally managed to hire a rent-a-car.
Banker Barun Biswas was aiming to go to his home district, Sirajganj, where his wife and children live.
“I could not see them since the lockdown was imposed. So the Eid holidays are an opportunity to meet them,” he said, before setting off on a “private” car.
Interestingly, no policeman was seen on duty at the Aminbazar check-post that leads to the bus terminal.
A similar exodus of people leaving Dhaka was noticed right after dawn on the Khathalbari-Shimulia river route.
They were mainly flocking the Shimulia Ferry Ghat (jetty) in Munshiganj by road to get to Kathalbari Ghat (jetty) on the other bank of the Padma, connecting to the southern part of the country.
Khathalbari Ferry Ghat (jetty) Manager Abdul Alim Mia said 13 out of 17 ferries resumed operation on Saturday after three days of inclement weather.
“Moreover, some launch and speedboats were carrying passengers on the route,” he said.
On Friday, Directorate General of Health Services Additional Director General Nasima Sultana requested people living in Dhaka or other major cities not to travel to hometowns during Eid.
“Your visit to relatives at hometowns can risk the latter,” she feared.
On the matter, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, said the number of coronavirus cases was less outside Dhaka before.
“But it (spread of Covid-19) will now increase there,” he said.
With more than half the cases detected in Dhaka city alone and nearly 87% in the division, the other seven divisions recorded the rest of the infections as of yet, the physician said.
However, 14 days after Eid, the cases will boom in the seven divisions, Prof Nazrul said, adding: “If it was not possible to put Dhaka on complete lockdown, how would it be possible for the rest of the country?”
Public health expert Toufiq Joarder said at a time when aggressive testing and contact tracing was a must, the exodus of Eid travellers will make things tougher in the fight against Covid-19.
“Maybe transmission of the virus will reach such a stage from where it will be an even harder task to ensure proper testing and contact tracing,” he concluded.