Ministry okays buses to run at full capacity
Even with the death and infection rates increasing at an alarming rate, the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association recently wrote to the road transport and bridges ministry that all other modes of transport were carrying passengers at full capacity as the coronavirus situation was "gradually returning to normal" and that they should be allowed to do the same. Following this, what we dreaded has become a reality—the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges gave the nod to carrying passengers at full capacity, starting today. The government has also decided to slash the 60 percent hike in bus fares to the previous rates, but how much of it will be implemented by the operators remains to be seen.
The government allowed the move provided that no standing passengers would be allowed once all the seats were occupied, that all passengers, drivers and bus staffers would have to wear masks and that the transport must have hand sanitisers and other hand-washing essentials. Moreover, the buses have to be disinfected before and after each trip. We have witnessed the carelessness of the bus service providers in maintaining safety precautions when the buses were operating on a limited scale. At full capacity, one can only imagine the chaos that may ensue and the fatal effect it can have on the populace.
Even though the authorities state that the Highway Police, and district and police administration will take action against those who violate the directives set forth, we remain skeptical of the practicalities of ensuring proper implementation, given their previous track records. Earlier, we had warned about the risk of operating at full scale based on expert opinions—a warning which has clearly not been heeded. Now, the authorities must answer to the public if they fail to guarantee an end to negligence by operators and keep transmission of the deadly virus in check.