People entering Dhaka in the morning had to walk for hours due to suspension of public transport
After a week’s relaxation on public movement for celebrating the Eid-ul-Azha, a stricter lockdown has been in force for the next two weeks to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The lockdown restrictions came into force at 6am on Friday and will continue till August 5 midnight, unless extended again, when all offices and factories except for those providing emergency services would remain closed.
The government gave an eight-day break relaxing the restrictions from July 15 mainly to facilitate Eid-centric trade but wanted to discourage people from celebrating Eid outside Dhaka. Yet, many people went to their village homes, but got only a day to return to Dhaka.
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According to Mustafa Jabbar, the minister for post, telecommunication and information technology, people using around 10 million SIMs left Dhaka in the eight days since July 15.
Failing to reach the capital before 6am, they had to walk a long way from different entry points of the city like Tongi Bridge, Aminbazar Bridge, Babubazar Bridge and Postogola Bridge, Sadarghat launch terminal and Kamalapur railway station to reach their destination.
Dhaka streets were almost empty as no public vehicle was available, and all shops and malls, offices and factories remained closed.
People are allowed to go out only for emergencies, to buy medicine or groceries and medical emergencies.
Garment factories and all other export-oriented industries, which were allowed to operate in the previous lockdowns, will remain closed this time around.
Rickshaw pullers’ show
Even though the movement of rickshaws is allowed for emergencies during the 14-day lockdown, they were stopped at many check-posts in the city.
Law enforcement officials have asked the rickshaw pullers not to carry more than one passenger at a time to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Due to the unavailability of buses and CNG-run auto-rickshaws, the rickshaw fare was much higher than the normal time.
Sumona Khatun wanted to go Rampura from Sadarghat but later started walking as the rickshaw pullers demanded Tk800. “I cannot afford that,” she said.
Visiting the Gabtali area on Friday morning, it was found that passengers deboarded from buses on the Aminbazar end of the Gabtoli Bridge. They were seen crossing the bridge on foot.
Rickshaws were available at Gabtali but as they demanded exorbitant fares, many people started walking.
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Hashem Mia, a rickshaw puller, said: “We will not get many passengers during the lockdown. Our earnings have dropped significantly. So we are charging a little higher from the passengers.”
The number of vehicles seen in the capital was much lower than usual as only emergency vehicles such as ambulances and goods-laden vehicles were allowed to ply the roads.
RAB and army personnel, deployed to enforce the strict restrictions, were seen checking the movement of people and vehicles at different points of the capital in addition to the duties performed by the police.
Furthermore, magistrates accompanied by BGB troopers were conducting mobile courts in Dhaka to enforce the lockdown curbs.
Police arrested 403 people from the capital on the first day of the 14-day strict lockdown. Additional Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Iftekharul Islam said that the persons had been arrested for roaming unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, mobile courts fined 203 people and realized Tk1.3 lakh. On the other hand, DMP's traffic division realised a fine of over Tk10 lakh from 441 vehicles.
One of the magistrates, Md Khairul Alam, who was on duty at Bangla Motor bus stop, said that he had filed cases against some 20 people till 3:30pm for violating lockdown rules and roaming the streets.
Until 10am, some public transports carrying passengers from different districts were allowed to enter the capital.
Akhtar Hossain, a traffic police officer, said some of the long-haul buses and vehicles were allowed to enter Dhaka through Uttara and Abdullahpur as they were stuck on the roads before entering the capital. “After 10am, no vehicle was allowed without valid reasons.”
Journey to Dhaka despite restriction
Our correspondents reported that on the first day of the fresh lockdown, passengers from Tangail, Netrakona, Mymensingh and Gazipur started for Dhaka by battery-run auto-rickshaws.
Siblings Rubel and Shamim, who work at a construction site in Dhaka, started around 5am from their home at Dharmapasha upazila in Sunamganj. They reached Gazipur sadar around noon.
“We had to change vehicles and spend more than Tk2,000 to reach here. We don’t know when we will reach Dhaka,” said Rubel.
Mintu and Kabir work as sales representatives at a cosmetics company in Uttara. From their Tangail home, they started for Dhaka early morning and reached Gazipur around 12:30pm.
“We did not use the highways. We took small vehicles on local roads spending Tk1,300, but still could not reach Dhaka,” said Mintu.
Passengers said that they could not realize that no vehicle would be allowed on roads on the first day of lockdown.
Gazipur Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Commissioner Abdullah Al Mamun said that police personnel were deployed at every important point of the district to prevent vehicles from entering the capital.
However, our Tangail correspondent reported quoting bus drivers that some public buses had been allowed on Dhaka-Tangail highway till noon.
The government has also suspended the movement of all types of passenger water vessels, including launches, speedboats and trawlers on the inland waterways. Ferry services were operational for carrying ambulances and goods-laden vehicles.
The operations of passenger trains and domestic flights came to a halt from Friday morning for the next 14 days of strict lockdown.
But the local flights carrying international passengers to the port of departure will operate during the period. Airlines were told to ensure that the domestic flight tickets are issued only to the passengers having international air tickets.