PUBLIC transports not ensuring health safety protocols, the government not enforcing health guidelines and people violating all this in public transports are worrying. With the COVID-19 infection intensifying and death going up, the violation of health safety protocols such as disinfecting vehicles, enforcing social distancing and wearing masks is highly likely to add to the risk of a wider spread of the novel coronavirus infection, which has so far affected 57,563 and left 781 of them dead in Bangladesh. Before allowing public transports to run on the road on May 31 after a 66-day restrictions, the government gave out a number of directives for passengers, transport owners and transport workers, but unfortunately most of the directives are reported to have been violated as there appears to be none to look into the issues. Although the government increased bus fare to make up for the losses of transport owners so that social distancing is maintained and vehicles are run with a limited number of passengers, the directives are, as New Age reported on Thursday, were largely violated as buses and launches reportedly ran crowded. Many transports are also reported to be charging passengers higher than the set fare.
The government sounds strict and speaks of stern action — with the road transport and bridges minister talking about punitive action against non-obliging transports and their owners while the health services directorate general issued a notice on May 30 making safety protocols mandatory and violations punishable with fine, or imprisonment or both — but no effective efforts have so far been visible to enforce and ensure health protocols in public transports. With the daily infection rate hovering beyond 2,000 for the past two weeks, restrictions having been eased, more people coming out on the road, and industries and offices having reopened, the country is passing, as health experts say, through a critical stage and any slackening in adherence to health guidelines might usher in a disaster. Flawed decisions, mismanagement and slack enforcement of safety protocols along with a lack of awareness and callousness of a large section of people have weakened the COVID-19 mitigation efforts and have already greatly contributed to the novel coronavirus infection. In such a situation, not maintaining safety protocols in public transports, where perhaps the largest number of people come closer to one another, can turn public transports into dangerous sources of COVID-19 infection.
There are fears that a considerable duration of time to come could be crucial in the fight against COVID-19. The government must, under the circumstances, ensure that health protocols are strictly followed, especially in public transports. Only directives, however, will not make things work. The government must put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure that health directives are maintained while passengers coming to be charged fares more than what is set must also be immediately attended to. People must also understand the need for health directive adherence to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
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