Health safety rules largely ignored
Largely ignoring the health safety rules, people in their thousands left the capital for their village homes yesterday to celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha with their loved ones.
The mad rush raised concern of a rise in Covid transmission at a time when the country is seeing a surge in both virus infections and deaths.
Bus and launch terminals were filled with passengers. Many of the home-goers did not even wear face masks.
There was no vacant seat in most of the buses and launches though the government had directed the operators to run those at half-capacity. Only a handful of the bus operators followed the instructions.
The buses remained stuck in tailbacks on highways for hours after leaving the capital. Officials said a huge rush of vehicles caused the gridlocks.
The situation at the railway stations was comparatively good. Trains left the capital's Kamalapur station with half of their seats vacant.
Visiting the city's Gabtali bus terminal yesterday morning, The Daily Star correspondents saw crowds in front of the ticket counters. Physical distancing went for a toss there. A large number of them were without any face masks.
Failing to get tickets, many passengers desperately moved from one counter to another.
Bus operators said some of them stopped selling tickets as they were struggling to maintain their schedule due to the traffic gridlocks on highways.
"We can't sell tickets as buses are failing to reach the terminals on time," Nurul Islam, a staffer of Hanif Paribahan, told this newspaper at Gabtoli bus terminal.
A Meherpur-bound passenger, Saiful Islam, said, "My bus was scheduled to start at 9:00am. It's already 10:30pm and there is no sign of the vehicle. I have been told that I may have to wait for two more hours."
Failing to get bus tickets, many passengers rented microbuses and started for their destinations sharing the ride, ignoring physical distancing.
Huge crowds were also seen at the ferry terminals on Shimulia-Banglabazar and Paturia-Daulatdia routes. People go to 21 southern districts from Dhaka through those.
Whenever a ferry reached Shimulia ferry terminal in Munshiganj, passengers jostled for boarding the vessel as the authorities apparently turned a blind eye to ensuring physical distancing.
Asked, Solaiman, inspector of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) at the terminal, said, "We're raising awareness among people so that they follow the Covid-19 health rules. We will continue our efforts in this regard."
The situation was almost similar at Paturia terminal in Manikganj.
A launch named "Tajmahal" left the terminal around 2:00pm with around 150 passengers on board. It had the capacity to carry 127 passengers and as per the government instructions, it was supposed to carry a maximum of 65 passengers.
"Launch operators are charging extra, saying they have to keep half the seats vacant. At the same time, they are taking additional passengers on board. They are taking all types of advantage," said Sadeque Hossain, a Rajbari-bound passenger.
There was a huge pressure of passengers at Paturia terminal while Daulatdia terminal had to deal with shipments of a large number of sacrificial animals being brought to the capital.
On the Dhaka-Tangail highway, vehicles got stuck in a 20-kilemetre-long gridlock from Nabinagar to Chandra area. A similar situation was seen from Baipail to Abdullahpur.
"It took over two hours to reach Savar's Nabinagar intersection from Gabtali bus terminal. Usually, it takes around half an hour," said Abu Sadique, a Dinjpur-bound passenger.
Throughout the day, vehicles had to move very slowly from Cumilla's Daudkandi to Chauddagram due to heavy traffic on Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
Several thousand home-goers thronged the capital's Sadarghat terminal yesterday evening to board launches. Physical distancing was largely ignored there as well.
[Our correspondents in Munshiganj, Manikganj and Cumilla contributed to this report]