THE chaos that has surfaced on roads has become doubly jeopardising with rampant violations of traffic rules and violations of health safety protocols in public transports amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. In five days after restrictions on public transport has been eased, all thoroughfares in and outside the capital appear to wear the old, usual look with rash driving, charging of additional fare, passenger crowding, traffic congestion and road accidents. There had been a drastic decline in road accidents and consequent death for about two months. But the situation appears to have been back to square one. Two pedestrians died and a motorcyclist became wounded in an accident on Thursday when a bus headed for Farmgate hit the pedestrians and a motorcycle in Bangla Motors area in Dhaka. The apparent cause of the accident appears to be rash driving, a major reason for road accidents. The bus was reportedly speeding up and competing with other buses to get more passengers in breach of road rules and the health safety directive for transports to run with a limited number of passengers to ensure social distancing.
Even when the government has allowed public transports to charge 60 per cent more than the usual fare so that they maintain the social distancing protocol and run with a limited number of passengers, transport owners and drivers appear not to be going by the directive. Public transports are also reported not to have ensured other health safety protocols while people keep showing a disregard for the safety protocols too. Public transports are carrying passengers more than permitted and are not regularly disinfecting the vehicles, which was ordered as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 outbreak. Passengers are mostly not wearing masks. With the COVID-19 infection and death figures going up, with the daily infection rate remaining close to 2,000 now, health safety protocol violations are highly likely to add to the risk of a wider spread of the disease, which has so far infected 60,391 and killed 811 in Bangladesh. Chaotic public transports may now easily turn into sources of COVID-19 transmission. The government and its agencies concerned speak of stern action at times, but no effective mechanism appears to have been in place to contain the situation.
The government must, therefore, ensure that public transports follow both road safety and health safety protocols. The government must realise that issuing directives and speaking of punitive action may not work; an effective monitoring mechanism is what is urgent to discipline the road regime for an effective fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. People must also be aware and go by the health directives.
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