Thousands of people are returning to Dhaka from their homes after the Eid holidays as government and private offices reopened yesterday.
Health experts have been expressing concerns that the people travelling cross-country en masse will cause a sharp spike in the number of new cases of Covid-19.
The Directorate General of Health Services yesterday urged people who left Dhaka ahead of the Eid last week to return after 14 days. The detection of a deadlier Indian variant of the coronavirus in Bangladesh has also raised serious concerns in recent days.
Thousands of people from the southern districts flocked to ferry terminals yesterday to reach the capital, crossing the Padma river after the three-day holidays.
The travellers didn't have to wait for long, as 18 ferries operated between Shimulia and Banglabazar, 16 between Paturia and Daulatdia, and four between Aricha and Kazirhat.
Crowding was inevitable on the ferries and many didn't wear any face covering let alone maintain social distance.
Telecommunications and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said at least 10,645,697 mobile phone subscribers travelled out of Dhaka between May 4 and May 15. Yesterday, 412,763 returned to the capital.
On Wednesday, five people died in stampedes and possibly because of heat strokes at Banglabazar Ferry Terminal as hundreds of thousands of city residents left for their village homes ahead of the Eid.
Zillur Rahman, general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation's regional office in Aricha, said traffic would get even heavier over the next few days.
Traffic police Inspector Hilal Uddin in Mawa said ambulances and vehicles carrying patients and corpses are being prioritised and trucks will be allowed to cross the river at night.
Defying the coronavirus restrictions, a few buses were seen operating between Shimulia and Dhaka while boats carried passengers across the Padma, reports our correspondent in Munshiganj.
But most holidaymakers had to hop on microbuses, cars and auto-rickshaws multiple times to reach Dhaka, paying exorbitant sums, as long-haul buses didn't operate.
Our Barishal correspondent reports that people from the southern region were getting on buses, three-wheelers, private vehicles and even on trucks to reach Mawa. With the river route closed, roads leading up to Mawa saw heavy traffic. People had to pay Tk 500 in transport cost, more than twice the usual fare.
BUSES TURNED BACK
Over 100 buses, which left Panchagarh, Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Natore, Pabna and other northern districts for the capital in defiance of the travel ban, were stopped by police in Sirajganj and not allowed to go across the Jamuna river using the bridge.
Some of the people on board got down and looked for other vehicles while others returned on the buses, officials said.
"We began stopping buses at the west end of the Bangabandhu Bridge yesterday morning. No passenger bus was allowed on the bridge," Mosaddek Hossain, officer-in-charge of Bangabandhu Bridge (west) Police Station, told the Daily Star.
Yasir Arafat, in-charge of Elenga Highway Police Outpost, said that his team stopped at least 50 buses and turned them around.
Several bus drivers said they were desperately looking for a way to make a living amid the restrictions.
Shafiqul Islam, officer-in-charge of Bangabandhu Bridge (east) Police Station, said the number of vehicles was likely to increase today and tomorrow.
Passengers suffered a lot on Dhaka-Chattogram highway in Cumilla amid a shortage of vehicles. However, the number of vehicles increased in the afternoon.
Government officials were instructed not to leave their workplaces. But employee presence at many government and private offices in the capital was low yesterday.
[Our correspondents in Munshiganj, Manikganj, Tangail, Sirajganj and Barishal contributed to this report]