Crowds swell across Bangladesh ahead of closing
People who flout government-imposed health guidelines, including mandatory mask use and maintaining physical distancing, board an overcrowded ferry to cross the Padma River at the Mawa ferry terminal in Munshiganj on Wednesday. – Sony Ramany
Thousands of people swarmed roads, markets, malls and banks on Tuesday, a day before the new restrictions, as large numbers continued to exit major cities violating health regulations planned to contain the cases of COVID-19.
Hundreds of people left for different destinations by road, even in trucks and vans which were not authorized to carry passengers.
People also paid extra on roads and waterways, while many were found walking with their luggage in hand.
The government on Monday announced the closure of all government and non-government offices and financial institutions from April 14 to April 21, imposing new restrictions on public movement and banning all modes of public transportation as well as general activities to curb the worsening of the COVID-19 situation in a new order.
No one without an emergency will be allowed to venture outside their home during the restriction period.
Inside and outside of Dhaka’s banks, service seekers have been seen stranded in long lines as banks were to remain closed from today.
Later in the afternoon, the Cabinet Division requested the Bangladesh Bank to provide banking services during the restriction period.
A large number of buyers were also seen on this day in markets, malls and kitchen markets.
On the roads, people were seen using alternative transport illegally, paying additional fares and risking their lives while in some places buses defied restrictions and freight vehicles transported passengers to different neighborhoods, including including Dhaka.
Throughout the day, thousands of people to and from Dhaka swarmed major ferry terminals as the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation struggled to maintain ferry services.
Previously, the stampede of people outside the capital started from Friday and only witnessed an increase following a ‘complete lockdown’ announcement by the transport minister roads and bridges, Obaidul Quader, Saturday.
At every bank branch in the capital, as elsewhere in the country, people were flocking to get last-minute services before today’s restrictions.
Men and women have been seen standing in long lines inside and outside banks as bank staff struggled to provide services.
People have also taken over popular shopping destinations, including markets, superstores, and kitchen markets on the eve of Pahela Baishakh and Ramadan.
Since the morning, an influx of people has been seen at the exit points of the capital, notably at the inter-district bus terminal of Gabtoli, in the areas of Saidabad and Jatrabari.
In Gabtoli, people boarded cars, microbuses and CNG rickshaws, even paying extra fees 10 times as bus services remained suspended.
Passengers with bags were also seen traveling by motorcycles.
In Aminbazar, van drivers were seen carrying passengers.
Men, women and children were seen standing in front of the terminal and many people walking towards Aminbazar in search of transport.
Some city service buses like Moumita Paribahan and Cantonment Transport Ltd have been seen carrying passengers to Paturia ghat defying restrictions and charging Tk 600 to Tk 700 instead of the regular fare of Tk 100.
Car and bicycle drivers charged 1000 Tk to get to the same destination.
In the regions of Saidabad and Jatrabari, since morning, hundreds of people have boarded vans and trucks.
The New Age correspondent in Tangail reported that on the Dhaka-Bangabandhu bridge highway, people were seen returning home in trucks, vans, buses, legunas, CNG auto rickshaws, other three-wheeled vehicles. and motorcycles.
Some buses have been seen operating on the highway in violation of a ban on taking full capacity passengers.
Since Tuesday morning, the pressure from vehicles and passengers at the Shimulia-Bangladeshabazar, Paturia-Daultadia, Aricha-Kazirhat and Mawa terminals has peaked, which usually occurs during Eid festivals.
People came by motorcycles, CNG auto-rickshaws, vans and even trucks paying additional fares at the terminals of Shimulia, Paturia, Mawa and Aricha, in addition to cars and microbuses.
At the Shimulia terminal, the New Age correspondent in Munshiganj reported, people were seen standing next to each other next to their vehicles when ferries began operating on the Shimulia-Bangladeshabazar sea route.
Many boarded trawlers and speedboats that traveled the Padma River defying restrictions, risking their lives.
Maintaining social distancing was hardly a priority during this influx of people from Dhaka, as many were not even wearing masks properly.
Some of the families were seen leaving Dhaka with all their belongings.
In the morning, around 1,000 vehicles, including cars and trucks loaded with goods, were seen waiting for the ferry to cross the river.
BIWTC Shimulia’s deputy terminal manager Prafulla Chowhan said she operates 14 ferries on the route and vehicle pressure is increasing as launch and speedboat services remain closed.
They were carrying private cars first, he said.
The long queue of freight vehicles was seen on the highway adjacent to the terminal.
The New Age correspondent in Manikganj reported that since morning thousands of people have been seen at the Paturia and Aricha ferry terminals.
On both sides of the Patura-Daultadia and Aricha-Kazirbari waterways, around two thousand vehicles were seen waiting in the queues at noon.
Many people were seen arriving at these terminals on foot while some bus drivers charged them five to six times higher fares.
Some elderly people, women and children fell ill on their way to the terminals.
Law enforcement officials also seized a number of buses for defying the restrictions.
People who drove trawlers on the waterways also charged additional fares.
The BIWTC operated all active ferries on the Paturia-Daultadia route due to increased pressure from people, officials said.
At the Mawa terminal, thousands of people were seen leaving Dhaka while many of them also returned from the southern districts since morning.
During the day, at least four ferries took the Aricha-Kazirhat route.
Previous restrictions on public and business travel that took effect on April 5 remained on paper until Tuesday, as more people left their homes to reach their desired destinations, while many traveled to in crowded markets despite the high risk of infection in the capital in other cities of the country.