Virus scare lost in home rush | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 10, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:31 AM, May 10, 2021

Virus scare lost in home rush

Home-goers ignore warning, desperate to leave city; Eid shoppers crowd malls

As Eid draws nearer, people desperate to go back to their home districts have continued to leave Dhaka despite all difficulties and while ignoring the restrictions the government imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

They waited for hours under the scorching sun at ferry terminals and on roads. They resorted to detours and changing vehicles multiple times to go home.

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Some jumped on trucks, pick-ups and many even walked long distances to get home.

They left the capital by any means, disregarding physical distancing, ignoring the prime minister's request to celebrate Eid where they are to help check the spread of Covid-19.

This rush has been continuing for the last three days.

Authorities have even suspended daytime ferries and deployed BGB troops, but the surge could not be stopped. Some even tried to cross the Padma on trawlers and small boats.

Even as people faced extreme difficulties trying to go to their home districts, in the capital shopping centres and roads were crowded with shoppers and vehicles ahead of Eid amid the "lockdown".

The Eid shopping rush is going on in the backdrop of news that the highly contagious Indian variants of Covid-19 have reached the country.

Health experts said the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh could worsen due to the increased public movement centring Eid. They had earlier warned that the situation could turn more dangerous once the India variant made its way here.

RUSH CONTINUES

Like the previous two days, people in their thousands thronged the capital's inter-district bus terminals in Gabtoli and Sayedabad yesterday.

From Gabtoli, many went to Amin Bazar on foot or on auto-rickshaws to take a bus and other transport. There, transport workers and car rental service providers were calling for passengers and negotiating deals.

Many passengers went to Paturia ferry terminal in Manikganj or to Chandra in Gazipur by bus to avail other modes of transport that would take them closer to their homes in the north and south of the country.

Many who could afford it rented vehicles. Others changed vehicles multiple times to go to their destinations. Motorcyclists were seen carrying two passengers on long journeys.

Microbuses with 10-12 people in them were seen leaving for the northern and southern districts.

People of low-income groups were seen boarding smaller vehicles like human hauliers and auto-rickshaws to get to the ferry terminals. Many even got on trucks and pick-ups.

Displaying indifference to the need for physical distancing, transport workers were cashing in on people's desperation and charging them extra to take them on.

Talking to this newspaper, many passengers said they were being charged almost double the usual fare.

Shawon Rahman, with five of his family members, went to Amin Bazar from Islambagh to go to Kushtia.

Talking to this correspondent, Shawon said he earns Tk 9,000 a month. He left his place in the capital with Tk 10,000 to take home, but feared that he may have to spend it all on the journey to pay the fare for his family of five.

As more and more people left using whatever means available, pressure of vehicles on the highways increased significantly in the afternoon.

A 20km tailback formed on the Dhaka-Aricha highway, stretching from the Savar bus stand to Gabtoli bridge area, reports UNB.

Despite a ban on inter-district operation, long-haul buses were seen on the Dhaka-Tangail highway.

Our Pabna correspondent reports that several hundred Dhaka-bound passenger buses were stranded since yesterday morning at different points of Bangabandhu Bridge West Zone after police barred them. As the congestion increased, police released the buses.

Mosaddek Hossain, officer-in-charge of Bangabandhu Bridge West Police Station, said a total of 26,223 vehicles crossed the Bangabandhu Bridge between Saturday and 6:00am Sunday.

Vehicles heading for the northern districts from Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur were on the rise, he added.

RUSH AT FERRY TERMINAL

Although ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia and Shimulia-Kathalbaria routes, gateways to 21 south and southwestern districts of the country, have been suspended during daytime, thousands thronged the Shimulia terminal yesterday morning. The crowd only increased as the day wore on.

To manage the crowd, two ferries carrying a total of around 5,000 passengers along with some ambulances carrying patients crossed the Padma river yesterday, said Md Hilal Uddin, Mawa traffic police inspector.

People were falling over themselves in order to get on the ferries. In the first ferry, around 7:45am, it only took a few minutes for the vessel to fill up with passengers. The back of the ferry was so crowded that it could not depart. Finally, police charged the crowd with truncheons to control the situation.

In the afternoon, hundreds of passengers were waiting for a ferry. But local administration told them to go back.

Munshiganj Deputy Commissioner Moniruzzaman Talukder said daytime ferry services will be completely closed, even to ambulances, which have now been asked to use the Jamuna bridge. At night, only goods-laden vehicles will pass.

At least 350 goods-laden vehicles were waiting to cross the river in the Shimulia terminal area.

Around 9:45pm, hundreds of passengers and some ambulances got on three more ferries along with the goods-laden vehicles and left Shimulia terminal, reports our Munshiganj correspondent.

Some people boarded trawlers to cross the Padma river from near the terminal. Police then conducted a drive, seized 12 trawlers and detained 20 of its drivers and helpers from different points near Shimulia for violating government instructions, said Mawa Naval Police In-charge Sirajul Kabir.

A BGB platoon was deployed a kilometre inland of Shimulia terminal to control the rush of holidaymakers. Personal vehicles and trucks were not being allowed to board the ferries.

At Paturia, five ferries operated to transport ambulances with patients and hundreds of people, reports our Manikganj correspondent, adding that no BGB team was seen in the terminal area yesterday but a police team was deployed there.

SHOPPING MALLS PACKED, ROADS CROWDED

In the capital, shopping centres and malls were seen full of customers.

Visiting some major shopping malls and markets in Dhaka -- New Market, Chandni Chawk, Gausia, Noor Mansion, Chandrima Super Market, Bangabazar, Jamuna Future Park and Bashundhara City Mall -- yesterday, The Daily Star correspondents found customers pouring into shops from 10:00am.

At most shopping centres, maintaining health and safety rules appeared a big challenge due to the heavy flow of customers.

There was not enough space inside most shops to maintain physical distancing. Shops of some popular brands were crowded with shoppers while there were queues to enter few outlets.

During iftar, people were seen sitting in groups on the floors of Bashundhara City to have their meals.

In Gulistan and New Market areas, thousands were seen doing their Eid shopping on streets where no health rules were maintained.

Yesterday, heavy traffic congestion was seen on Mirpur Road, Technical area, New Market, Elephant Road, Bangla Motor, Panthapath, Farmgate and Karwan Bazar areas.

Traffic police said the crowd was heavier because shoppers and people heading home thronged the streets ahead of Eid.

[Our correspondents in Munshiganj, Pabna, Manikganj and Tangail contributed to this report]

 

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