16 ferries are being operated on Shimulia-Banglabazar route
Hundreds of holidaymakers are still streaming out of Dhaka on Saturday, a day after the Eid-ul-Fitr amid the ongoing restrictions on public movement and gathering to curb Covid-19 transmission.
A huge number of people poured into Shimulia ferry terminal in Munshiganj, the gateway to southern Bangladesh, to cross the Padma River.
As many as 300 to 400 vehicles were stranded at the ferry terminal to cross the river.
The terminal authorities said passengers were being given priority over transports to handle the pressure of the holidaymakers.
Even, five to six ferries only carried passengers in the morning, they said, vehicles were not allowed to board at that time.
Truck driver Mohsin said he was waiting at the ferry terminal for the last four hours. "The authorities allowed a few vehicles to board ferries in order to deal with the pressure of the passengers."
Defying the health safety protocols, the south-bound travellers were seen boarding ferries without maintaining social-distancing.
The sweltering heat of summer also added woes in their journey. Many were seen apathetic about wearing masks properly.
Travellers claimed of being charged extra fares to reach Shimulia due to the lack of public transports.
Profulla Chouhan, assistant manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) at Shimulia ferry terminal, said 16 ferries are being operated on Shimulia-Banglabazar route at present amid the pressure of home-goers and vehicles.
Millions of people had left Dhaka city over the past week to celebrate Eid at their village homes with near and dear ones, violating the government-imposed restrictions on public movement and ignoring the risks of coronavirus infection.
Amid the ban on inter-district bus, launch, and train, the holidaymakers were desperate to reach their destinations by using various modes of transport -- be it on the roads or rivers.
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A huge number of the home-goers had thronged at Shimulia and Paturia ferry terminals to cross the Padma River since the exodus started.
Meanwhile, five people died and more than 50 other injured in two separate stampedes at the Banglabazar ferry terminal on Wednesday afternoon.
Although the authorities initially suspended the ferry operations for passengers, the services were restored on Thursday following the stampedes and because of the excessive rush of holidaymakers.
In another development, the health authorities have recommended delaying the return journey of the people who went home to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr.
Health experts already warned that Bangladesh is likely to experience a third wave of Covid-19 outbreak at the beginning of June due to the Indian variant detected in the country, and mad rush on ferries, transports and markets.
In light of the situation, fearing such travels may spike Covid-19 cases around the country, the government has decided in principle to extend the ongoing restrictions from May 17.
Moreover, the government is also working to give police the magistracy power by amending the Infectious Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act of 2018 to make people wear masks due to lack of manpower to conduct mobile courts.
This year, the government had imposed the restrictions on public movement across the country on April 5, after Covid-19 cases and deaths surged alarmingly.
The restrictions were later extended until May 16 in phases.