Covid surge feared for transport resumption

Workers demand restart of launch services 

Staff Correspondent | Published: 15:53, May 04,2021 | Updated: 23:43, May 04,2021


Waterways workers on Tuesday urged the Bangladesh authorities to resume launch services following the same demand made by road transport workers amid widespread violations during the current restriction period on public movement and overall activities.

Public health experts observed that even if the government allows inter-district bus service that would increase the infection rate sharply as people from more infected places might travel to low-infected areas.

On the 21st day of the restrictions, huge traffic congestions were seen in almost all busy areas in Dhaka throughout the day.

The shopping malls and kitchen markets were teeming with shoppers as  Eid-ul-Fitr is just around the corner.

Meanwhile, the government on Monday decided to extend the current restrictions till May 16 which was scheduled to end today.

A decision was also taken at the weekly cabinet meeting that the buses would be allowed to operate within districts and cities from May 6 while the ongoing ban on public transports would remain in force for train, launch and inter-district bus services.

Till Tuesday morning, Covid-19 has killed total 11,705 people and has infected 7,65,596 people in the country since the first case was detected in March 2020, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.

DGHS in the daily update said that 21,984 samples were tested across the country in the past 24 hours and 8.71 per cent of them were positive for Covid-19 which went above 22 per cent in early April.

Epidemiologist Be-Nazir Ahmed told New Age that  if the buses even resume services inside the districts the infection would increase as people would then travel to their destinations across districts by changing buses.

‘In April, many people in Dhaka was infected with Covid-19 but they remained within the city and the virus did not spread outside the district due to a ban on inter-district transports,’ he said, who was also a former director for disease control at the Directorate General of Health Services.

He said that daily around two crore people move on inter-district routes in the country which was stopped by 99 per cent following the ongoing restrictions and the result is visible in the current low rate of infection.

Reopening the shops and shopping malls would increase the rate of infection while the spread would increase further if public transports resume services, he added.

Public health expert Rashid-e-Mahbub said that if transports resume services that might have a devastating consequence.

‘Who will monitor people if they decide to travel across the districts by changing buses at every district,’ said Rashid-e-Mahbub, a former president of Bangladesh Medical Association.

Both Rashid and Be-Nazir said that the demands of transports workers were valid as they could not live without earnings while the government should come forward to help them during the restrictions.

The waterways workers under the banner of Bangladesh Waterways Workers Federation on Tuesday held a rally following a procession at the Sadarghat launch terminal in Dhaka.

‘If our demands of resuming launch services are not met, we are considering going for a strike. The workers working in goods-carrying vessels would also join us,’ said the federation president Md Shah Alam Bhuiyan.

They also announced that they would stage a demonstration in front of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority headquarters in Dhaka today.

The government imposed the restrictions on Public movement and at other places on April 5 to contain the surge of Covid infections in Bangladesh.

Though the ban on road transports earlier had been relaxed for a time being, the ban continued till Tuesday on waterways and railways.

Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation leaders and activists are also pressing for the resumption of bus services on all routes.

On Tuesday, people rushed to different destinations in the capital like elsewhere in the country to carry out their daily chores crowding roads and footpaths.

Many of them did not wear masks while social distancing became impossible at most public places.

Earlier on April 5, the government imposed an 11-point restriction on public movement and businesses. The government extended the restrictions on public movement and overall activities on April 14.

The authorities, however, allowed all banks to continue their activities daily for a limited period from April 14, allowed domestic flight operation on all but Cox’s Bazar route from April 21 and opened shops and shopping malls from April 25.

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