Trains, launches resume services amid COVID-19 fears

Services on the rail and waterways have restarted after a 66-day shutdown amid fears that it could aggravate the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh

However, the resumption of these transport services is subject to the government's health and hygiene directives with trains only allowed to operate at half the passenger capacity.

Eight pairs of trains resumed operations under their usual timetables, including Banalata, Chitra, Panchagarh and Lalmonirhat Express on the western routes.

All tickets are being sold online.

"Chances of getting too many passengers are next to none as the tickets are not being at counters," said Mihir Kanti, general manager of Bangladesh Railway's West Zone. 

"Stations have taken strict measures to ensure that only passengers with valid tickets board trains."

Meanwhile, the first passenger launch left the Sadarghat terminal for Chandpur at 6:45 am on Sunday, BIWTA director Rafiqul Islam told bdnews24.com.

Afterwards, other launches also set sail for Shariatpur, he said.

Launch operations restarted on schedule and in compliance with the health and safety rules, Rafiqul said.

The public transport system along with offices and workplaces reopened on Sunday after the government decided against extending a nationwide lockdown that had been in effect since Mar 26 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

"Life cannot remain at a standstill. We may have to live with the coronavirus at least until a vaccine is developed. But economic activities must be restarted for the sake of our livelihoods," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said on the eve of Eid.

Buses will resume operations from Monday. All public transport will have to strictly adhere to the 13-point health and safety protocol issued by the health service department.

Disinfection tunnels have been set up at eight entrances to Sadarghat and hand sanitisers have been arranged, AKM Arif Uddin, joint director of Dhaka River Port, told bdnews24.com

“The seating positions of all passengers in launch decks have been marked out in accordance with the health guidelines,” Arif said.

Police have undertaken all necessary security measures, Sadarghat Police Outpost SI Md Pavel Mia said.