Public vehicles in the port city are defying government instructions, as they are carrying more passengers than the seat capacity, contributing to further transmission of the coronavirus.
The transports were supposed to carry individuals according to the seat capacity from yesterday, as part of the government's instruction for them to realise normal fares.
In addition, passengers not wearing facemask would be disallowed to board, and the seats will have to be sanitised in the beginning of every trip.
Earlier, the government allowed public transports to realise 60 percent additional fare, on condition of carrying half the number of passengers according to capacity.
Passengers alleged that although transport workers used to take this additional fare, they did not follow the instructions. As a result, altercations between passengers and the workers was common.
In the streets, this correspondent saw public transports blatantly ignoring the government instructions. Many passengers were seen standing on buses in Chawkbazar, Muradpur, Bahaddarhat, Sholoshahar Gate 2, Oxygen and Karnaphuli Shah Amanat Bridge areas.
Almost two-third of the passengers were seen without facemasks. Sources said around 1,000 minibuses, and 2,000 human-hauliers ply on 12 routes in the city.
Tarit Kumar Dutta, a private job holder, was frustrated as he boarded a minibus at Sholoshahar Gate 2 to go to office yesterday morning.
"Health guidelines are being ignored in the bus…Many passengers are standing very close to each other, while most are not wearing facemasks," Tarit said. "When I protested taking in additional passengers, I got into an altercation with the conductor, and he misbehaved with me."
Abdus Sattar Roni, general secretary of South Chattogram Passengers Welfare Association, told The Daily Star that public transports are carrying excess passengers, but law enforcers are not acting against them.
Asked, Md Harun, conductor of a minibus, said they forbade additional passengers from boarding but they do not pay heed. " What can I do?" he asked.
When asked about allowing passengers who do not wear facemask, he said he could not compel anyone to wear facemask. "It is the duty of law-enforcers."
According to health experts, if health guidelines are not followed inside public transports, the situation may further deteriorate.
Contacted, Prof Shakeel Ahmed, an epidemiologist and in-charge of Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases lab, said health guidelines should be ensured to prevent the spread of Covid-19. "There is no scope to relax health rules at this moment."
Contacted, Belayet Hossain, president of Chattogram Metropolitan Paribahan Malik Group, said they instructed workers to not even carry one passenger more than the capacity and not allow passengers without facemasks.
"We did not do business for the last six months, and if needed, we would not for the next two months for the sake of public wellbeing," he said. "We will strictly monitor whether the health rules are being followed."
Mobile courts of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) were seen on different routes yesterday. BRTA Mobile Court Bench Assistant Emil Chakma said three such courts were being conducted.
Contacted, Mohammad Shahidullah, deputy commissioner (traffic) of Chattogram Metropolitan Police, said traffic department teams were monitoring different routes to ensure health guidelines. "We are imposing fines on vehicles that do not follow the instructions and will be stricter regarding this matter."