As if there is no coronavirus
Traffic moving at a snail's pace, shoppers huddling together, and masks being ignored in general, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country, one might be perplexed to know that this is the current scenario on the roads of Dhaka.
All these were observed at Gulistan around 1:30pm yesterday. The place was jam-packed with people and vehicles, with no regard for health guidelines. Queues for buses were stationed for droves of passengers rushing in, and crowds of Eid shoppers were thronging the nearby markets.
Similarly, around the same time at Karwan Bazar, vegetables and fish markets were flooded with hundreds of customers and traders, with almost no space left to maintain social distancing. Most of them had no mask or were wearing them under the chin.
After the government relaxed the restrictions for eight days to allow movement and business activities ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, chaos ensued at markets and streets amid authorities' lax monitoring. It is as if there is no Covid-19.
In a cabinet division notification issued on Tuesday, there was a condition that stated people will have to remain cautious and strictly maintain health guidelines, including wearing face-masks, during this time.
However, visiting market areas and streets, this correspondent found the guidelines grossly ignored.
This correspondent found shops full of people from 10:30am in Dhaka's major shopping malls and markets, including New Market, Chadni Chawk, Gausia, Noor Mansion, Chandrima Super Market, Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, and shops at Elephant road and Gulistan.
"Seeing the crowds here [Gulistan], one can't differentiate whether it's a scene from normal times or Covid time. The place is filled with roadside vendors. Many are not wearing masks," said a traffic sergeant posted in front of Gulistan Shopping Complex, who was struggling to control the traffic.
Abdul Halim (45), a trader from Kishoreganj, said he came to the capital to buy clothes and accessories for Eid at a Gulistan market. He was seen having lunch at an open area just beside the road.
Asked, he said, "It may be unhealthy, but if I go to restaurants, I may miss the bus. So, I had a quick lunch here."
During the visit, no physical distancing was observed at most shops at New Market, Gausia, Noor Mansion, and Chadni Chawk.
Clothing and jewellery stores at the markets were packed. Several shopkeepers and buyers were seen without masks.
Crowds at New Market were seen buying crockery, kitchenware and home décor items.
During the visit, no physical distancing was observed at most shops at these places due to the market's limited space.
Yesterday, Dhaka witnessed heavy traffic on streets in most areas and intersections, particularly around market areas. The wait at traffic signals was considerably longer.
A number of inter-district buses entering and exiting the city also contributed to traffic, as holidaymakers left the capital.
Pedestrians, personal cars, motorcycles, rickshaws and other vehicles flooded the capital's streets, making commuters spend a harrowing time on the roads.
A record rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and fatalities in recent days prompted the government to enforce a nationwide strict lockdown from July 1. It was later extended until July 14.
However, ahead of Eid, the government issued a circular on Monday, relaxing the lockdown from July 15 to 23. From July 23 to August 5, the "strict lockdown" will be reinstated.