Public Transport in Pandemic: Commuters’ new fear | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 01, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:19 AM, June 01, 2020

Public Transport in Pandemic: Commuters’ new fear

For two months, the concept publicised over and over again was that staying home was the key to combating the spread of coronavirus.

Celebrities urged people to stay home and the #stayhome hashtag took over social media.

Since most of the restrictions are lifted from today, many office-goers are concerned about contracting and spreading the highly transmissible virus while they go to work using public transport.

"We had been working for reduced hours. The office provided a microbus that carried three or four people. We maintained some semblance of social distancing. But now... the microbus service will stop," said Shorif Ahmed, who will have to travel by bus to his office in the capital's Mirpur-1 from Asad Gate every day.

"It will not be possible to maintain three feet of distance among passengers in the buses, no matter what rules the government makes," said the employee of a private company.

He cannot afford to spend about Tk 400 commuting to work on CNG-run three-wheelers, he said, adding that he was the only earning member of his family of five.

Public transport will officially resume from today, but buses were seen plying the roads yesterday, and people posted on social media photos and videos of crowded buses in the capital and Chattogram.

Nilima Jahan, a correspondent of this newspaper, said, "We live in Kazipara and my husband works in Uttara. How will he afford Tk 600 for each trip to work?

"Besides, he works in sales and needs to visit several places for work each day. Now, if he avoids the buses, I cannot even fathom what the daily expenditure would look like."

A 29-year-old employee of a top-tier pharmaceutical company said she was thinking of quitting her job.

"I went to visit my ancestral home before the shutdown, so I got stuck in another district. Now the office is asking me to go back to Dhaka," she said, requesting anonymity.

"My department is international marketing, but export is closed, meaning work is light. We routinely work from home, because I always coordinate with different time zones and work late."

Her requests for permission to continue working from home were rejected by the management, she added.

Health experts have been saying that lifting the restrictions at a time when the daily new cases are rising would worsen the outbreak. For a large section of the workforce, however, it just means making a choice between unemployment and risking coronavirus infection. 

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