With the public transport resumption on Wednesday in cities, people were found largely negligent of virus safety rules while travelling by public buses amid a countrywide lockdown to curb Covid-19 resurgence.
More buses, and passengers as a result, were on roads Wednesday, compared to the previous two days of the weeklong lockdown. Passengers said the transport resumption eased their sufferings and expenses.
But many of them did not have their face covered during the journey while other passengers were completely ignorant of social distancing – exposing people to the deadly virus.
Bus drivers and their assistants were also not in face masks. The buses neither immunised the passengers while picking them up, nor they had hand sanitising arrangements. On top of this, the public transports did not disinfect the vehicle before and after a trip – a clear violation of the city bus service resumption conditions.
With a set of virus safety conditions, the government resumed public transports in cities Wednesday. According to the government's transportation curbs, the buses – with a 60% fare hike – will operate keeping half of their seats empty, and comply with the health safety guidelines.
There was passengers' rush in the morning at several key points of the capital. However, the crowds became thinner later on the day. Most of the buses were carrying up to their half-occupancy while some state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) buses were packed with passengers.
"I had to spend Tk300 to come to my office in the last two days, and it was burning a hole in my pocket. With the bus service resumption today, I am now able to travel within Tk50 – even though the fare is 60% higher," Bappy Rahman, a Badamtoli bound passenger, told The Business Standard in Dhaka's Kawran Bazar.
Bappy believes if the buses followed health measures properly, it would be easier for people to balance the financial health and virus safety altogether.
Rana, a bus conductor in the capital, was picking up passengers without sanitizing them. He also did not have a face mask.
While asked about virus safety, he brought out a sprayer bottle underneath a seat and covered his face promptly.
It was a common picture of the public buses in Dhaka Wednesday.
BRTC bus driver Rafiqul Haque said he took off the face mask as he felt suffocated with the mask on.
Mohammad Nurunnabi, Shahbagh Zone assistant commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP, Traffic), said they had been monitoring the buses whether the vehicles were following the safety measures.
"We are realising fines from those who flout the rules," he added. But the police official said it is not possible to ensure the virus safety on every bus all the time.
In the meantime, both the traffic and passengers in Chattogram were less than the usual Wednesday. The port city roads did not have the regular traffic congestions.
Visiting several key points of the port city Wednesday, the regular hustle and bustle of the passenger was found missing. Many buses were operating almost vacant while the motorised and CNG-run three-wheelers were waiting for passengers.
Golam Rosul Babul, secretary general of the Chattogram District Road Transport Owners' Association, said around 300 buses were plying roads until Wednesday noon.
Demo to cancel ride-sharing ban
Riders staged demonstrations in different parts of the capital Wednesday, demanding cancelation of the ban on ride-sharing.
They blocked roads in front of the Jatiya Press Club, Moghbazar intersection, Khilkhet and Mirpur on Wednesday afternoon.
Jasim Uddin, a rider, told TBS what would be the outcomes of the stay-at-home order if people do not have money to survive.
"If the CNG-run auto rickshaw, cars, rickshaws, buses can all run, what is the benefit of the government by banning the ride-sharers? Resume the ridesharing, we will also share rides after maintaining the virus safety rules," he noted.
"In accordance with directives from the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), we have resumed car services, such as UberX, Premier and Rental. We believe this will facilitate access to safer and reliable mobility options for riders in these challenging times," Uber spokesperson said when asked about the curb on ride sharing services in Bangladesh.
Pathao and other app-based services have also resumed car services.