Abul Kalam who works in Chattogram city was going to his native home in Chandpur to meet his family amid the spread of the coronavirus.
He was waiting for Meghna Express train at Chattogram rail station on Sunday afternoon. Talking to The Business Standard, Abul Kalam said, As work opportunities in Chattogram city have shrunk after the coronavirus outbreak and that I am frightened of the highly contagious disease, I have decided to go home."
"If I am infected with the coronavirus, I want to die staying with my family," he continued.
Not only Abul Kalam but also many other people like him who wanted to leave the port city for different neighbouring districts thronged the rail station on Sunday. But, in a complete opposite scenario, the number of passengers using Dhaka-bound non-stop trains has decreased by more than half following the coronavirus outbreak, according to officials of Chattogram railway station. Ansar Ali, Railways Chattogram Divisional Commercial Manager, said the volume of ticket sales for all trains has now fallen below half the usual number. The number will fall further in the next one week, he added.
Chattogram Rail Station Manager Ratan Kumar Chowdhury said many passengers have returned the advance tickets they had purchased for March 25 and 26.
Ticket sale is decreasing every day, he added. Remarking on the measures they have taken to contain spread of the coronavirus, he noted cleaning drive is being conducted at the railway station.
Disinfections are being done on train doors, seats, handles and other points which the passengers touch. Besides, pre cautionary guidelines are being publicised by loud speakers at the station area, he explained.
Chattogram railway station sources said inter-city train Suborno Express that has a seating capacity for 899 passengers left for Dhaka carrying only 377 passengers on Sunday morning. More than half of the seats of the train remained vacant. Besides, the 584-seat Sonar Bangla Express left for Dhaka with 220 passengers on the same day, with more than 60 percent of its vacant.
Meanwhile, Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita's 366 tickets were sold against its total seats of 668.
On the other hand, the short-distance trains that make stopovers at district towns were seen carrying passengers more than their capacity.
In Dhaka-bound Mohanagar Godhuli, 727 tickets were sold against its capacity of 709 seats on Sunday.
Besides, Sylhet-bound Paharika Express had 826 passengers against its capacity of 626 seats. Mymensingh-bound Bijoy Expres had 730 passengers against its capacity of 660 seats. In Chandpur-bound Meghna Express, 927 passengers travelled to the full capacity of the train.
Sabbir Ahmed, a student of Chittagong University said, We are panicked after the spread of the coronavirus. At this moment, I have no alternative to staying with my family so I am going to my hometown Cumilla."
Meanwhile, a high official of Chattogram railway station, wishing to be unnamed, said, We are discharging our duties amid fears of getting infected with the virus. In airports and seaports, passengers and sailors have been brought under screening but the system has not yet been introduced in railway stations. The officials who are selling tickets at the counters are at a greater risk of getting infected."
Shahidul Islam, an attendant of Mohanangar Gudhuli train said, Earlier, the station premises used to become crowded about half an hour before the departure time of the train. But, now the scenario is reverse. The number of passengers is very slim."