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Dhaka streets more crowded on third day of lockdown

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-07-25 14:08:26 BdST

A line of traffic ran all the way from Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Hospital to the Shyamoli Mental Hospital on Sunday morning. The cause was a police checkpoint set up in front of Suhrawardy Hospital.

“We are checking as many of the vehicles as we can to ensure the passengers have sufficient reason to travel amid a lockdown,” said Traffic Police Sergeant Titumir.

“As there are more vehicles on the road, we can’t check everyone’s papers,” he said. “We are, however, conducting random checks.”

Most of the passengers say they are on their way to the bank or the hospital, he said.

As the policeman indicated, there was more traffic on Dhaka’s streets on the third day of lockdown – mostly cars, motorcycles and freight pick-up trucks. Many travellers are forced to pay double the usual rickshaw fare to get about amid the lockdown. Tempers were flaring between rickshaw drivers and potential passengers at many intersections across the city.

The number of people on the streets could derail the ongoing efforts to curb the pandemic, but police at the checkpoint in Mirpur say there is little they can do to stop them.

Most of those who come by the check post offer reasonable excuses and cannot be stopped, they say, but some cases have been filed due to irregularities with vehicle documents.

“For the past two days, it felt like there was a proper lockdown,” said Shamimur Rahman, a pharmacy salesman from Kakrail. “But now it doesn’t really seem as if there aren’t any restrictions in Dhaka city. Offices, factories, malls and public transport are closed, but it seems like there are even more vehicles on the road. Most of them are private cars.”

“It seemed like people were careful for a couple of days, but now it seems back to normal.”

The situation in Malibagh, Mouchak, Kakrail, Shantinagar, Bijoynagar and the Paltan areas seem to bear out his observations.

“There were fewer people on the streets in the past two days,” said Ripon, a rickshaw driver who had just brought a passenger from Rampura to Kakrail. “It’s better for us if there are more people out and about. We have more customers and can make enough to eat.”

The crowds were also heavier at the wet markets in Shantinagar and the Malibagh Rail Gate area.

“You can’t just continue eating Eid meat,” said Abdus Salam Azad, who works at a pharmaceutical company. “You need a break sometimes. So, I came to the bazaar to buy some vegetables. But I’ll head home soon.”

“A lot of people at the bazaar aren’t wearing their masks properly. I think that they should have announcements and volunteers in places where people gather to make sure they follow health protocols. You won’t be able to decrease the number of infections by just announcing a lockdown.”

Long lines could be seen behind TCB trucks selling subsidised lentils, sugar and oil.

“Please stand further apart from each other,” a worker on a TCB truck said to customers queuing in Shantinagar. “There’s enough for you all. But if you stand so close together, you’ll get the coronavirus.”

There is more activity in the alleys and side roads as well. Some stores are open, but close their shutters when police patrols pass.

“We lower the shutters when we get a warning about the police coming this way,” said Zobayer Islam, who works at a dry goods store in the Mohammadia Housing area. “We have to do business. How can we survive if our store stays closed?”

Hawkers are also plying their trade while avoiding law enforcers.

“I’ve changed spots four times since this morning,” said vegetable trader Swapan Biswas. “We don’t cause crowding. We only work in open areas. Why do they try to shut us down?”

There were more people on the road in the Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and Satmasjid Road areas as well. Some offices were open on Dhanmondi Road 27.

“We’ve filed cases against three people since this morning,” said Traffic Sergeant Durjoy Hassan, who was assigned to the area.

“People aren’t supposed to be out and about.”