The government issued Covid-19 health safety guidelines – aiming to curb further spread of the deadly virus and its Omicron variant – are vastly neglected, especially on Dhaka public transports.
Most of the city service buses have been carrying passengers at full capacity in violation of the directive to operate at 50% capacity.
Virtually all drivers and helpers were seen as very reluctant to maintain social distancing, keep hand sanitizers or wear masks.
Speaking with The Business Standard (TBS) on Saturday, bus helpers and transport workers complained that the commuters themselves should be held responsible for overcrowding the buses amid the resurgence of the pandemic.
However, passengers complained that they were forced to ply the cramped vehicles as they were unable to avail transport complying with the health guidelines.
Md Sajib, a bus helper working for Gazipur Paribahan, when asked why he had his mask on his chin instead of covering his respiratory organs said, "It is difficult to talk to the passengers with a mask on.
"You can work in offices, courts while wearing masks but not on buses."
Passengers in most of the public transports inspected by TBS in Dhaka today (15 January) were found paying little heed to the health directives.
When asked about the reasons for not using masks, the passengers came up with some bizarre excuses such as – "It [mask] fell of my mouth,'' "I forgot," and "I lost it."
Many where were seen putting on their masks, kept inside their pockets and purses, after seeing others being interviewed by a journalist.
According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), public vehicles must operate at half capacity, fares are to remain unchanged, and vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected at the start and end of each trip.
These rules are mostly being violated on the city service transports, while many of the long route buses are somewhat following the directives.
Besides, people visiting kitchen markets, shopping malls, shops and restaurants were also seen ignoring the health safety rules.
During a visit in Moghbazar's New Star Hotel at around 11am today, TBS found most of the customers without masks, having their desired items, in a crammed space.
None of them were asked to show their vaccination cards by the hotel management to be allowed for entry.
Md Mohibur, the hotel's cashier who had his mask on his chin said, "Some of the customers are showing their vaccine cards. However, we are providing to everyone, regardless their vaccination status.
"It is not possible to fully maintain the government's order to serve only those who are inoculated. How can we ask for vaccination cards from the customers?"
Meanwhile, in the capital's Banglamator and Moghbazar areas, many were seen gossiping at tea stalls and smoking cigarettes with zero care in the world.
Experts have said that the country's pandemic situation will deteriorate further if the virus health directives are not properly maintained and abided by.
In an effort to slow down the virus transmission, the government last week imposed harsh curbs in the wake of the Omicron outbreak and the overall coronavirus situation in the country.
The Cabinet Division issued a notification in this regard on 10 January.
The fresh Covid-19 restrictions include –
• All kinds of public gatherings, including social programmes, political and religious events will remain suspended until further notice.
• People have to wear masks everywhere, including shops, shopping malls, markets, hotels, and restaurants. Otherwise, they will face legal action.
• The mask use should be ensured in all places, including offices and courts, and mobile court drives will be conducted to prevent the violation of health guidelines.
• People should show their Covid-19 vaccination certificates while taking food in restaurants and staying in residential hotels.
• Students above 12 would not be allowed at educational institutions without having Covid-19 vaccination certificate after a designated date to be fixed by the Education Ministry.
• Increasing the number of screening at all ports, including land-ports, airports, and maritime ports. The crewmembers of ships should not be allowed to go outside while arriving at a port while only truck drivers are allowed to enter land ports with trucks. Besides, visitors along with foreign-bound passengers should not be allowed to enter airports.
• Public transport, including buses, trains, and launches can operate at half of their capacities while drivers and helpers of all modes of vehicles should have Covid-19 vaccination certificates.
• Passengers coming from abroad should show vaccination certificates and should undergo Rapid Antigen tests upon arrival.
• Imams will make people aware of the health guidelines and the use of masks in all mosques during the "khutba" of Jumma prayers and the deputy commissioners and UNOs concerned will ensure that.
• Health and Family Welfare Ministry will take necessary steps to ensure vaccination and accelerate the activities of booster dose. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry will assist them in publicity.
• In the case of any special situation in any place, the local administration can take steps in consultation with the authorities concerned.
Bangladesh recorded its first virus cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18 of the last year.