Health rule violations continue to run rampant at cattle markets, during holiday rush home
The country is set to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha, the second largest religious festival for Muslims, amid the Covid-19 pandemic for the second time on Wednesday.
Muslims will sacrifice animals across the country to commemorate the day, symbolizing Hazrat Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son in order to show his devotion to Allah.
The government has relaxed Covid-19 restrictions from July 15-23 to ease travel for Eid holiday makers and allow cattle markets to operate. It also urged people to strictly maintain health guidelines while travelling to their home districts or at cattle markets, due to surging numbers of Covid-19 infections across the country.
However, health rule violations continued to run rampant yesterday. Massive crowds at cattle markets and ferry terminals made it impossible to maintain social distancing, and many people were not wearing masks.
Ferries and launches at Shimulia ferry terminal in Munshiganj struggled with the pressure of passengers, which was amplified by a suspension of speed boat services due to turbulent water. Microphone announcements asking people to follow health guidelines were ignored by those waiting at the terminal.
Ferry terminal sources said holiday makers had been flocking to the terminal since the break of dawn yesterday. Vehicle pressure was very high.
Md Foysal Ahmed, manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) Shimulia ghat, told the media yesterday: “A total 15 ferries are operational, but ferry movement is being hampered by strong waves in the Padma River.”
Sources at the BIWTC said 16 out of 19 ferries were carrying vehicles across the river.
A total of 86 launches were operating on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route. Although the authorities had instructed vessels to operate at half capacity, most of them were overflowing with passengers.
Passengers rushed to claim spots on launches as soon as one arrived, without any regard for health rules. No hand washing stations or measures to ensure mask wearing could be seen.
Md Shahadat Hossain, assistant director and assistant port and transport officer of the Shimulia river port safety and traffic operations division, claimed the launches were maintaining health guidelines.
Ferry delays lead to highway tailbacks
Delays at the ferry terminal due to the turbulent waters of the Padma River led to hundreds of vehicles getting stuck for hours in a 15km-long tailback on the Dhaka-Tangail- Bangabandhu Bridge section of the highway yesterday.
Starting from the eastern end of Bangabandhu Bridge, the tailback stretched up to Rabna bypass on the highway near Tangail district town.
The Dhaka-bound side of the highway was clear, but hundreds of vehicles were stranded in the other lane.
Tangail Superintendent of Police Sanjit Kumar Roy said that over 60 policemen were deployed on the highway in the district, while another 200 law enforcement officials were deployed in other parts of the highway.
Transport workers said Dhaka bound buses were taking a long time to reach the city because of heavy traffic at the Paturia-Daulatdia ferry terminals. This left many passengers waiting for hours at Gabtoli bus terminal.
Shohag Paribahan ticket counter staff member Nishan said the company had managed to operate only three buses from Gabtoli till the afternoon, and all of them missed their schedules.
“Our 8:30am bus left the terminal at 1:30pm and the 9:15am bus left at 2:15pm,” he said.
He said the company had managed to keep to the schedule till Sunday evening.
Sakura Paribahan counter staff Md Shakhawat Hossain said the company had been compelled to cancel two bus trips to Barguna and Khepupara, as they failed to return to the city due to heavy traffic at every ferry terminal.
Hanif Enterprise staff members said 20 of their buses had failed to return to Dhaka on time from the southern districts.
“We need to spray disinfectants before every trip, which also takes time. Besides, each bus carries passengers at half capacity,” said Shah Alam, a staff member of Sonartori Paribahan.
He added that the company faced fewer passengers than expected.