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'What's the point of lockdown?': Dhaka gets busier as pandemic curbs wear off

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-07-31 19:26:14 BdST

The government-enforced lockdown to contain a rampant coronavirus pandemic appears to be losing its intensity with each passing day, even though COVID-19 infections and deaths show little or no signs of letting up.

On Saturday, daily life appeared to be inching closer to normal as more people and vehicles took to Dhaka's streets than they had in previous days. The crowds at shops and stores were also larger, with people seemingly oblivious to the threat of COVID-19.

Law enforcers have also grown weary of working day and night to enforce the pandemic restrictions.

To compound matters, thousands of people are streaming into the capital to get back to work after the government decided to allow factories to reopen on Sunday. Those who are still erring on the side of caution are left questioning the point of a lockdown under such circumstances.

Saturday is the ninth day of what has been dubbed the 'strictest lockdown yet'. Only the shuttered marketplaces served as a reminder that the pandemic restrictions were still in effect. The roads were busier than days prior with cars, motorcycles, rickshaws and vans roaming freely in Rampura, Malibagh, Kakrail, Shahjahanpur, Fakirer Pool and Paltan.

Helal Uddin, an officer at a private insurance company in Motijheel, said, “I came out because I have work. You're seeing less traffic today because it's the weekend -- not because of the lockdown. The roads will be packed on Sunday.”

Crowds of people gathered at the Fakirer Pool Market, with many seen eating breakfast in a few small food shops in the area, although dine-in services are banned in the lockdown.

Most of the corner shops are open in the alleys of Shahjahanpur and Malibagh.

Abul Kashem, a grocer in Shahjahanpur, said, “I keep the shop open until 4 pm. People always come to buy things. Many come to the local grocery store without going to the market because of the lockdown.”

"But business is not the same as before," he said. The lockdown rules stipulate that shops must close by 3 pm.

Similar scenes played out in Mugda, Khilgaon and Taltola, where police were mostly inactive.

Several rice warehouses line both sides of the road from Mugda's Bishwa Road to Manda. The traders there said they have been opening their warehouses every day for almost a week.

Alam Sardar of Sardar Traders said, “We didn't open up at the beginning of the lockdown. But everyone has been opening the warehouses for the last four or five days.”

“I did not dare keep the warehouse open before as I feared getting fined. The business is suffering as it is. Now that we are open, no one is saying anything.”

Other traders in the vicinity gathered around Alam and echoed his sentiments. But they all had one request: "Please, don't take photos of the open warehouses."

All types of shops were open in the Khilgaon market, which was attracting a host of customers.

In Old Dhaka’s Azimpur, Palashi and Dhaka University areas, the inner streets and alleyways were abuzz with people although traffic was scarce on the main roads.

Almost all shops are also back in business in different parts of Mirpur, including Rupnagar, Pallabi and Arambagh. Some shops and businesses are trading with the shutters down while others have completely opened up.

Habib, a salesman of Sumi Hardware in Rupnagar, said the store had been operating with the shutter halfway down for several days. However, the owners are mindful of complying with the health and physical distancing guidelines, according to Habib.

“There is no other way but to open up in order to meet the daily expenses. So, the owner has asked us to sell whatever we can to gather the money.”

Policemen from Rupnagar station sat close to Sumi Hardware.

“We are also frustrated by our workload. I am not getting the opportunity to retire now. I can't sleep properly. We have to work 18 hours a day,” said one of the policemen.

Zahid Patwari, a resident of the area, said, “I have been on the road since the morning. At around 9 am, a police patrol came and left. There hasn't been any police presence since then. Everyone is starting to open their shops. What is the point of a lockdown in such a situation?”