People leave Dhaka with high coronavirus risk

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:40, Mar 25,2020


Passengers cram a ferry on Paturia-Daulatdia route as a large number of people left the capital city on Wednesday after the government declared public holiday till April 4 amid coronavirus spread fear. — Sourav Lasker

Hundreds of Thousands of people thronged the bus and ferry terminals on Wednesday to leave the capital defying the call for social distancing for preventing the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country.

The rush began following the announcement of public holiday from March 26 to April 4 and a ban on public transports throughout the country from today on Tuesday.

People from different walks of life left the capital amid fears that the massive public movement will make the situation more complicated by spreading the contagious disease throughout the country.

The government on Mon day announced public holiday from March 26 to April 4 in all workplaces and the road transport and bridges ministry imposed a 10-day ban on the movement of public transports, including buses, auto-rickshaws, human haulers and ridesharing services.

On Tuesday, railways, waterways and airways authorities suspended the movement of passenger trains, ferries and boats and domestic flights until further notice as thousands of people started leaving the capital in fear of COVID-19.

All goods carrying vehicles on roads, railways and waterways, however, remain outside the purview of the ban.

On Wednesday, thousands of people left Dhaka crowding the ferries on major river routes and buses on major highways especially for southern, western and northern districts.

People experienced huge sufferings on their ways while mismanagement at ferry terminals and roads was seen at different places.

The ferry terminals on Shimulia-Kathalbari and Paturia-Doulatdia water routes were thronged by thousands of people while thousands of passengers got stuck on Dhaka-Tangail Highway throughout the day.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority on Tuesday announced by issuing a press release that the movement of all water transports would remain close from 12:00pm from the day until further notice.

Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on Tuesday, in a video message from the secretariat, said that the government had made a decision to shut down all public transports on roads from March 26 to April 4 to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority director for engineering Lokman Hossain Mollah told New Age as ridesharing services ran commercially these were also public transports and would come under the ban.

Ridesharing services for cars, motorcycles, microbuses and jeeps will remain suspend but ridesharing services for ambulance will continue, he added.

The New Age correspondent in Munshiganj reported that though the government banned public gatherings at Shimulia ferry terminal, the scenario was different on Wednesday.

As the launches and speedboats were closed down, the ferries on the river Padma carried thousands of passengers to the southern districts of the country along with goods-laden vehicles.

People also crossed the river risking their lives by illegal trawlers.

The pressure of passengers from Dhaka increased as the day passed. 

Shimulia ferry ghat assistant manager Safayet Ahmed said that 14 ferries were carrying passengers and vehicles.

‘We cannot control the pressure of the passengers as they are going next to each other which is risky for the spread of the virus,’ he said. 

Till 5:00pm around 800 vehicles were seen waiting at the terminal to cross the river.

The New Age correspondent in Manikganj reports that people rushed to Paturia ferry terminal in the morning and they waited there for hours to get on their ferries.

Long queue of vehicles were seen at the terminal area and on its adjacent roads.

Muktar Hossain, a tailor based in Dhaka, said that he started from Gabtoli by a bus to Paturia at 6:00am.

The bus forced the passengers to get off at Uthuli Bazar area and then they walked to the ferry ghat, he said.

From Doulatdia ghat Muktar finally reached his destination by an auto-rickshaw as there were no buses.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation’s Aricha office deputy general manager Zillur Rahman said that they were facing a huge pressure of cars and goods-laden vehicles to 21 southern western districts.

The New Age correspondent in Tangail reported that on Wednesday there was huge traffic congestion on Dhaka-Tangail road.

Vehicular movement came to a halt in different spots on the highway from Chandra crossing in Gazipur to Tangail at night.

At around 7:00pm a 30-km-long tailback was created at Chandra to Baoikhola at Basail in Tangail.

Gorai Highway Police outpost officer-in-charge Md Moniruzzaman said that there was a heavy pressure of passengers due to public holiday and construction works of an underpass in Kadhim Dholla at Mirzapur.

Passenger Faruk Hossen who was travelling by a pickup van, told New Age that he got on the van at Gabtali in the morning as he did not get any bus for Rajshahi to get on and until 11:00am he was at Mirzapur.

Truck driver Kalam Mia said that he started from Dhaka on Tuesday night for Bogura but the truck still stuck at Gorai at Mirzapur upazila at 10:30am.

The mad rush created shortage of vehicles.

Ariful Islam, a passenger at Kalyanpur bus terminal in Dhaka, said that he was trying for a bus to Rajbari but no seat was available at any bus.

‘A Paturia-bound bus demands Tk 300, which is much higher than the usual fare of Tk 100,’ he said.

‘I know being in a crowd is risky, but I have to quit Dhaka as I have no arrangement for food,’ said Ahsan, a student of Dhaka College.

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