Crowds swelling in markets in Bangladesh capital amid virus infection risks

Staff Correspondent | Published: 22:33, May 11,2020 | Updated: 00:33, May 12,2020


People are on shopping spree at a market at Lalbagh in Dhaka on Monday after the government relaxed restrictions on shop opening and public movement. — New Age photo

Dhaka experienced an increased number of customers on Monday in the markets that reopened after government’s clearance on conditions that owners would follow health guidelines.

Health safety measures were the last thing in shoppers’ minds as shopkeepers said that the number of customers increased on Monday, a day after they reopened ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest religious festival of Muslims.

Business leaders urged the government to come forward with their support to maintain health safety as the country saw a spike in the number of novel coronavirus infections in the last couple weeks as the rate was multiplying daily.

There was no government monitoring on markets and standalone shops that opened after more that month of government holiday.

The health ministry’s directives to install handwashing facility or use hand sanitiser before entry have not been materialised as most market authorities were yet to arrange for any facility to ensure sanitisation and social distancing.

Bangladesh Shop Owners Association president Helal Uddin told New Age that shopkeepers were not health experts and they lack the ability to ensure safety.

‘I urge the government to help businessmen by providing guidelines and equipment,’ he said.

Most shopping mall authorities decided not to reopen their businesses as they understood that maintaining safety would be difficult.

As the influx of shoppers increased on the second day in markets experts fear the worst as government tests identified more COVID-19 patients in the country that infected 15,691 and killed 239 till Monday.

During visit, a huge number of clothing, shoe, cosmetics and shops of electronics and electrical goods shops were found open where shoppers’ presence was substantial.

On May 7, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police issued a set of directives for shoppers and businesses, which included wearing masks and maintaining distance, both were being grossly violated at most of the markets.

DMP asked shoppers not to visit shops located beyond two kilometres from areas of residence and asked to show their identification cards or passports or driving licenses or utility bill receipts at entry points of markets and shopping centres in order to locate their residential areas.

According to the instructions, the owners could reopen their shops ensuring heath safety measures, including maintenance of social distancing by drawing demarcation circles in front of each shop and arranging for facilities for handwashing or disinfection while separate entry and exit points must also be maintained.

The police also discouraged sick persons, elderly people and children from entering the market places.

DMP deputy commissioner Masudur Rahman said that it would take time to impose the directives and none was punished for violating the instructions.

Arifur Rahman, a shoe shop owner at Elephant Road said that he was afraid of the virus but were compelled to open the shop for the sake of his three salesmen and himself.

He said that most businessmen were not out to make money only fighting for their livelihood.

Markets and malls that usually draw the most crowd, including the book market at Nilkhet, New Market, Bashundhara Shopping Mall, Jamuna Future Park among others were shut till Monday while most roadside shops in the capital were open.

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