At a time when the government is emphasising social distancing, large gatherings at sales centres of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) are posing risks of spreading Covid-19.
Every day, people are queuing up in front of the sales centres to buy goods at subsidised rates. However, in doing so, they are putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus as they hardly maintain social distance.
On a visit to the Rampura kitchen market area in the capital at noon today, The Business Standard found that over a 100 male and female buyers were standing very close to each other in two separate queues in front of a TCB truck.
Earlier in the day, a similar scenario was observed in front of the TCB sales centre near the National Press Club.
Talking to several buyers, it was found that they were rather oblivious to the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the approaching Ramadan, the state-owned TCB has been selling sugar and red lentil for Tk50 per kilogram, and soybean oil for Tk80 a litre since April 1.
These commodities are being sold at 50 points across the city. Visiting the sales centres, it has been found that the buyers are predominantly people from the lower and middle-income groups.
Driven by their needs, these people are coming to buy these commodities at subsidised rates. But what is worrying is the fact that there is little awareness among them about ensuring social distancing.
At the Rampura sales centre, a volunteer named Ariful Haque was seen urging the buyers to maintain social distancing while standing in the queue. However, the buyers were not paying any heed to his repeated advice.
They stood maintaining some distance after a police officer asked them to maintain a three feet distance from each other in the queue, but came closer again soon after the cop left.
Asked about this, a buyer named Aleya Begum said, "Coronavirus will not infect us."
Another buyer named Samiul Islam said maintaining social distancing is a bit difficult when many people are there. Later, he requested the two people standing in front of and behind him to leave some space in between.
The dealer of the sales centre Mohammad Ripon said the pressure of customers had been heavier since the past three days.
"Every now and then, we urge the buyers to maintain distance," he claimed, adding that they cannot constantly monitor them if the number of buyers is high.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is conducting regular monitoring programmes to oversee the TCB sales centres, besides monitoring the markets.
Visiting various sales centres periodically, officials of the directorate are also building public awareness to maintain social distancing while standing in queue.
Talking about this, Deputy Director of the Dhaka Divisional Office of the directorate Manzur Mohammad Shahriar said, "Not only we, but also the police are carrying out these activities. Even then, people are reportedly flouting social distancing rules at different places. We will enhance monitoring in this regard."
Another officer involved with market monitoring, Md Abdul Jabbar, stressed public awareness. "Only our advice will not bring about the desired result, they [buyers] must be aware as well. Or else, all of us will be at risk."
Meanwhile, visiting a number of sales centres, it was found that though the supply of sugar was adequate, the supply of red lentil was a little short. Each truck was provided with 150 kilograms of red lentil on Monday, while the amount was double on the previous day.