Due to relaxed restrictions, the roads and highways of Dhaka witnessed increased traffic on Sunday.
However, people leaving the capital far outnumber those who are coming in. Not many public transportation services are currently available, so many are leaving Dhaka for home using alternative methods.
A significant number of vehicles were seen plying the roads of the capital on Sunday. The all-too-familiar sight of gridlocks was seen in some important areas of the city. Heavy traffic was seen at all entry and exit routes of Dhaka.
People are leaving the capital for their homes, in droves, due to the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr, said holidaymakers and officials concerned.
Many organisations have announced extended holidays, and many others have shut down. So, the city dwellers are taking this opportunity to enjoy Eid festivities by taking a long holiday.
However, experts have expressed fear that the people leaving Dhaka could spread the novel coronavirus to remote areas across the country.
Many are leaving Dhaka on motorcycles, in private cars, in microbuses, and even on trucks – paying exorbitant fares as public transportation services remain halted.
Police patrols at various points in the capital were found showing relaxed restrictions.
Afsar Ali, a pharmaceutical company field officer heading towards Natore from Dhaka with his family members, was waiting for a microbus around 11am in Abdullahpur area on Sunday.
He told The Business Standard, "Microbuses are readily available, and they can take us from Abdullahpur to the east side of Jamuna Bridge. From the bridge, we will head for Sirajganj on a CNG auto-rickshaw."
"We can then journey towards Natore on another auto-rickshaw," he explained.
Afsar Ali is not alone. Every day, thousands of people are leaving Dhaka for their native homes, via Abdullahpur, using various methods.
A police sub-inspector of the Abdullahpur patrol team, said, "Not many people are entering the capital now. However, many are leaving in various ways as Eid is approaching.
"People are boarding microbuses, private cars, trucks and CNG auto-rickshaws for long journeys – a bit further than the points where police have been deployed. Law enforcement is allowing them to leave after making sure they have a valid reason to travel," he said.
City dwellers are also leaving the capital from the Sayedabad point using different methods.
Mehedi Hassan, who works at a garment factory owned by DBL Group, was heading towards his native home in Chandpur on Sunday after his company announced a holiday.
From Sayedabad area, Mehedi will travel towards Daudkandi Bridge on a CNG auto-rickshaw. From there, another auto-rickshaw will take him directly to Haziganj.
Sharing his experience, private car driver Osman Mia said, "I am making two-three trips from Dhaka to Cumilla every day. I could not drive my vehicle on the road a few days ago, but the restrictions have relaxed now, and I am facing no issues."
"I still have to manage the police if they stop me somewhere. However, they are not causing problems and I am making good money," he said.
Officials concerned said the gathering of people planning to leave Dhaka increases at night at different entry points and bus stands of the city.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Sayedabad Bus Terminal guard Ali Mahmud said, "The police are very vigilant during the daytime, but as the night deepens, their vigilance decreases. People are taking this opportunity to leave the city."
"Trucks carrying essential commodities arrive in the capital every day, and leave at night. A large number of people are leaving the city on those trucks," he said.
Professor Dr Kanak Kanti Barua, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said, "On media and social network platforms, I have seen the methods people are using to leave Dhaka for their native homes."
"I consider the matter extremely dangerous as it will cause Covid-19 infections to soar in the country. Dhaka is home to 85 percent of the novel coronavirus patients in Bangladesh. There is a possibility that Dhaka city dwellers will spread Covid-19 to remote areas," he continued.
He added that this is a matter of great concern.
Commenting on the matter, Health and Family Welfare Secretary M Asadul Islam said, "The situation regarding people coming and leaving Dhaka is horrible."
"This issue can be avoided if those tasked with preventing people from entering and leaving the capital perform their duties sincerely," he stated.