Law enforcers are taking strict measures to make city people comply with restrictions on movement in Dhaka. Despite that, many people still do not care about the directive.
Police have restricted all entry and exit points to and from the capital, and are only allowing people with valid reasons to pass through. They have also penalised several people who violated government instructions, according to police sources.
Tarek Mahmud, who used to be a mechanic in Dhaka, was heading towards Gazipur on a bike with his brother yesterday.
Police stopped the duo at a check-post while they were crossing the Uttara area from Paltan. Sub-Inspector Nahid Parvez at Uttara West Police Station asked the brothers why they are on the road.
Tarek claimed that his mother is ill, and they are going to the village to see her. The police officer became suspicious of their behaviour, and called their family members. After learning thatTarek's mother was not ill, the police told the brothers to turn back.
Tarek's story is not an isolated one, as a good number of people are blatantly violating government instructions on restricting their movement to curb the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Talking to The Business Standard, Sub-Inspector Nahid Parvez, said, "Police have set up a number of check posts in the city to stop people from wandering around. When we asked them why they were out on the roads, many said they are going to a medical facility or out to buy food."
"How will we restrict movement if they go out on the pretext of such emergencies?"
To tackle the situation, law enforcement agencies have increased the number of check-posts in Dhaka to curb the spread of coronavirus. At least five check posts have been set up from Rampura Bridge to Uttara.
The police are also searching every vehicle that passes through the check posts.
On a spot visit to a check post in the city's Gabtoli area, this correspondent saw police searching vehicles, but many people entered and left Dhaka on foot.
Responding to queries, Saif Uddin, additional superintendent of RAB-10, said, "We have set up a check-post at the Jatrabari area."
"A good number of people are still leaving home without an emergency. We are turning everyone away, except bankers and ailing people. The movement of both people and vehicles has gone down in the city compared to that in the previous day," he said.
On Sunday, police headquarters announced that the law enforcers will not allow anyone to enter or leave Dhaka city in a move to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Housing societies impose voluntary lockdown
Dhaka has so far witnessed 84 coronavirus cases – the highest in the country till yesterday noon.
The government – though it is late – has finally imposed a cluster-based lockdown on some neighbourhoods. But most city people hardly bother about such restrictions.
In this situation, many locality-based societies, mainly welfare associations run by house owners, have come up with measures to stop entry to or exit from their respective residential areas.
The Business Standard recently talked to city residents and the organisers of several housing societies across Dhaka metropolis.
Nafizul Haque Nafiz, a resident at PC Cultural Housing Society in the Adabor area, said his society has closed all the entrances to restrict outsiders. The society has been maintaining an unofficial lockdown to stem the outbreak of coronavirus.
Artist and writer Mustofa Zaman, who lives in the Nanadan Apartments at Kalyanpur, also said almost all housing societies across Shyamoli and Adabor are prioritising social distancing as a safety measure against the coronavirus contagion.
"The societies have already locked the entry gates," Zaman said. He believes that if the societies continue doing it for at least a month, the number of infections during the pandemic will come down.
So far, at least nine people at Basabo area have tested positive for Covid-19. The news has caused local people to panic.
"Although there is no big housing society in the Basabo area, small groups of societies closed the entry gates of different alleys on April 4. They are not allowing anyone to enter or leave their respective societies.
Residents except for physicians, bankers and journalists are discouraged to go out.
At present, no vehicle is allowed to enter through the alleys," said Ahammad Foyez, a Dhaka-based journalist who resides in South Goran.
Montakim Ahamed Chowdhury, a resident at South Banashree, shared the same experience.
He said his society allows the entry of its residents only.
Farid Uddin Khandakar, a former organiser at the South Banasree Housing Society, told the Business Standard that all the entry gates have been made off-limits to outsiders.
"The society has taken the measure to prevent the coronavirus infection from outside the society's territory. The residents are also discouraged to go outside," said Farid.
In Monipuripara area under Tejgaon, Monipuripara Welfare Association has locked all the seven entry gates for outsiders. Only the locals driving private cars can enter the area using a single gate.
Tofazzal Hossen, a security guard at the residential area, said only emergency service providers' vehicles from outside are allowed to enter Monipuripara.
Amid the risk of coronavirus infection, some locality-based societies in the capital's posh areas have also restricted the entry of outsiders, even housemaids and on-hire chauffeurs.
From March 24, the Baridhara Society and the Niketan Society have gone on complete lockdown.
Baridhara Society's president Abdur Rauf and Niketan Society's general secretary AKM Sahiuzzaman Haris confirmed the matter to The Business Standard.