Almost all the important roads in Dhaka city wore an empty look throughout the day on Friday, the third day of the weeklong strict lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
From restaurants to shopping malls to recreational parks to the zoo, the chirping of birds and the sound of falling leaves could be heard. A few ambulances, bicycles and motorcycles of food delivery men, and some people seeking emergency services were seen on the key roads.
Police checkpoints were also relaxed at different points and there were less policemen compared to the previous days as it was Friday. The road in front of Eastern Plaza in Hatirpool was totally empty and only several rickshaws were passing at the interval of a few minutes. A group of youngsters and old people were chatting, having tea, and wandering there.
But a stark contrast was seen in alleys, where people gathered in concerning numbers. Quader Muhammad Helal, a resident of Mirpur 6 went to the nearest Baitul Mosharaf Jam-e Masjid to offer Friday prayers.
"Though the number of devotees was less than that during the normal times, I saw hundreds of people praying outside the mosque. Half of them were not wearing masks and a few were arguing with the mosque gateman over why the mosque authorities had allowed a limited number of devotees inside," he said.
He also said hundreds of people were roaming around Mirpur 6 kitchen market and most of them were not maintaining social distancing.
"If you go to the main roads, the city looks deserted. But you would find a different picture in the alleyways in Mirpur," he added.
Azizul Hakim Bhuyain, an apprentice lawyer at Dhaka Judge Court, told The Business Standard that locals in Rupnagar residential area, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Dhaka, did not adhere to the lockdown rules properly.
He said shops on the front side of the road were closed but many stores, including tea stalls, were open at the back and people hurriedly left whenever they saw police coming.
"A large number of people wearing masks attended Friday prayers, but social distancing was not maintained at the required level. However, the government's instructions were being followed to a large extent."
Shafiqul Islam, a student at the University of Dhaka who went to Dhaka medical staff quarter mosque at Elephant Road to pray, found more than 1,000 people waiting to enter the mosque.
"The gateman did not allow everyone to get in. So, hundreds of devotees prayed on the nearby streets amid the heavy heat of summer. But there was a difference with other mosques as most of the devotees were wearing masks and maintained proper hygiene," he added.
Thousands of devotees went to the nearest mosques in their neighbourhoods in Mohammadpur, Banasree, Panthapath, and other parts of the capital.
Several traffic officials of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said there were less people on the streets than the two previous days.
"However, we are patrolling and checking people at various points to halt the movement of those who were roaming without urgency," said Mohammad Farhad, a sergeant of Dhanmondi traffic zone.
As it was the weekend, there were no commuters on Dhaka streets, but there were crowds in markets in Shahbagh, Banglamotor, Farmgate, Bijoy Sarani, Shewrapara, Ibrahimpur and Kachukhet. Rickshaws ruled the roads and rickshaw pullers took the opportunity of the lockdown to overcharge passengers.
Grocery and hardware stores, tea stalls, and tailor shops were open in Mirpur among other businesses. Some stores kept their shutters partially open. Sales were good but lower than the previous days.
There were many who did not wear masks. When asked why he had come out of the house during the lockdown, a person named Rafiq said, "What type of lockdown is this? Everything is open."
"There are cars on the road. All stores in the neighbourhood are open."
Abdus Samad, who went to Karwan Bazar to buy vegetables, said he had not come out in the last two days due to the lockdown.
"I bought some vegetables. The market is much less crowded today," he said.
Shah Alam, a vegetable seller, said there were less buyers compared to the previous days. "Sales are also lower due to the rising prices of commodities. This lockdown will kill the poor like us."
Tamiz Uddin, a rickshaw puller in Shahbagh, said police had not allowed him to wait for passengers anywhere on the streets in the last two days.
"Traffic is lighter today. So, I can pull the rickshaw without problems. But I cannot earn even Tk200 in the whole day. I cannot even go to my village home as transports are closed due to the lockdown."
Several people were hanging out at Dhanmondi 27. One of them, Rakib Hasan, said his house is nearby and he came out as he was not feeling good staying home all day long.