The government has finally sent the whole country into a 10-day lockdown, after road transport services stopped across the country from Wednesday night amid the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The government had earlier imposed restrictions on railway, waterway and airway services across the country.
Bus terminals in Gabtoli, Mohakhali and Saydabad areas of Dhaka witnessed a huge influx of passengers on Wednesday, the last day before the 10-day lockdown got under way.
Risking coronavirus (Covid-19) infection, tens of thousands of home-bound people thronged the three inter-district bus terminals on Wednesday, caring little about the consequences.
Though the government had asked bus owners to allow passengers to board the buses after spraying disinfectants on their hands, only a few were seen keeping to the instruction. As a result, most of the passengers boarded the buses without any sanitisation.
Passengers were seen getting into buses in groups without maintaining the social distance prescribed by health officials. Many had bought bus tickets in advance, so a significant number of others were seen searching for tickets from one crowded counter to another.
SR Paribahan's counter manager Shawon Khan told The Business Standard the transport firm was not selling any ticket for the northern districts, as no tickets were available for those destinations.
"We have sold the tickets in advance. But people are still coming to buy tickets, and many are returning empty-handed," said Shawon.
Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel were seen dispersing passengers' gatherings at the bus terminals.
This correspondent spoke to Mohammad Rashed, a tailor who was desperately searching for tickets with his 4-year-old son and six family members at the Gabtoli Bus Terminal.
"We have no work in Dhaka, as the government has ordered a shutdown of all business establishments for 10 days. I do not know whether the journey is risky or not, but I think Dhaka is riskier than the villages, and for this reason I am leaving the capital."
Road transport services suspended
The country's road transport regulatory authority, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), instructed transport owners on Wednesday to shut down all services across the country from Thursday.
In line with government instructions, all passenger vehicles, including private cars, buses, CNG-run auto rickshaws and ride-sharing services will remain suspended from March 26 to April 4 across the country.
BRTA Director AKM Masudur Rahman told The Business Standard, "Buses, CNG run-auto rickshaws and ride-sharing services will not be allowed to ply in the country during the 10-day lockdown period.
"Even private cars and motorcycles will not be allowed to run during the lockdown period. Besides, police and army men have been deployed to oversee movement on the roads. The army will take action if anyone ignores the notice."
Adding that public notices had been posted in daily newspapers prior to the lockdown, BRTA officials said trucks and covered-vans carrying essential drugs, fuel and perishable goods would remain outside the purview of the lockdown.
Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association General Secretary Khandakar Enayatullah said the organisation had already instructed bus owners across the country to abide by the government's directives.
"I am optimistic that bus owners will not allow their drivers to bring out buses on the roads across the country tomorrow," said Khandakar Enayatullah on Wednesday.
The 12 ride-sharing services in Dhaka will also suspend their operations during the lockdown period.
Syed Fakhruddin Millath, spokesman of ride-sharing service OBHAI, said the BTRA had asked them to power off the apps during the lockdown.
"As per the instruction, we will not allow people to switch on the apps during the notice period," he said.
Mofiz Uddin Ahmed, additional commissioner (Traffic) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the police would take strict action if anyone operated a vehicle in the city.
"We will not allow any passenger vehicles, including buses and CNG-run auto rickshaws, to run in the city," the additional commissioner added.