People out on roads are barely adhering to social distancing guidelines, posing a grave threat of a further worsening of the situation
Dhaka city is getting back to its usual din and bustle even though there has been a surge in the number of coronavirus cases across the country.
Major roads and streets of the capital witnessed a big spike in traffic following the reopening of shopping malls and markets amid the ongoing shutdown.
Even though there are no public transport vehicles on the roads, the movement of private vehicles and rickshaws has increased considerably.
Worryingly, people out on the roads are barely adhering to social distancing guidelines, posing a grave threat of a further worsening of the situation.
In response to an application by the Bangladesh Shop Owners Association, the government allowed reopening of shops before Eid on condition that health guidelines would be maintained.
Since the markets were reopened, though on a limited basis on Sunday, the capital city has been gradually getting back its usual busy image.
A heavy presence of vehicles on different roads and streets of the city on Tuesday – two days after shops and markets reopened following the government order – was a clear reminder of life as it was in the pre-lockdown period.
Tailbacks of private cars, trucks, rickshaws, human haulers and carts were seen at every intersection on the route from Motijheel to Jatrabari.
Ambulances and law enforcement vehicles were seen stuck in thick traffic from Shapla Chattar to the Hatkhola section of the road in the three-hour period between 11am and 2pm on the day.
Observing such heavy crowds and a large presence of vehicles on various roads in Kakrail, Shantinagar, Mouchak, Rampura, Malibagh, Khilgaon and Arambagh, people out on the roads themselves expressed their apprehension that the coronavirus situation might deteriorate if things go on in such a manner.
Samiul Huq, an employee of a private bank in Motijheel, was on his way to his office. He could not but express concern over the situation on the road at around 12.30pm.
"The heavy traffic on the road and a rush of people on the footpaths amid the shutdown make me worried about my own protection," he said.
He also slammed the irresponsible behaviour of the people, asking, "What will happen if people keep coming out in this way, while the number of infections is increasing every day?"
Dhaka University student Abu Daud Piyas came to Motijheel for some work at Sonali Bank. He said he had to wait in a long queue at the bank.
Referring to the increasing number of people coming out on the roads following the reopening of markets and relaxation of restrictions, he said what was happening was not right. "We must think of something different. We have to be more alert given that the pandemic can destroy us all."
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials were seen active at some places trying to make people abide by the rules.
Rafiul, a policeman who was on duty in front of Rampura Television Centre said, "A lockdown is going on. And we are trying to make sure that no one comes out on the roads without any valid reasons."
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bank has extended banking hours for customers by 30 minutes to 2:30pm from Sunday. That was a reason why the pressure of crowds was heavy in Motijheel. Besides, banks in Kakrail, Malibagh and Mouchak also drew considerable numbers of customers.
The driver of a government bank official said it took him 50 minutes to reach Motijheel from Banani on Tuesday.
"After the general holiday was announced, it took 15-20 minutes to reach Motijheel from Banani. Even on Sunday, we reached Motijheel in 30-35 minutes," he said, adding that there were traffic congestions at Mohakhali, Kakrail, Arambagh and Shapla Chattar areas on the route.
While there were heavy crowds on the roads, the scene at shopping malls was totally different.
None of the major shopping malls in the city has reopened. However, makeshift shops on footpaths have been reopened in different areas, including Motijheel, Gulistan, Malibagh, Mouchak, Farmgate, Mirpur-2 and Mirpur-10. These shops have been drawing a large number of shoppers.
It may be recalled that the government earlier accorded conditional permission on a reopening of mosques from May 7. However, social distancing guidelines are being flouted in most of the mosques in the capital.