Lax attitudes of both customers and shop owners towards health safety guidelines and poor sale in Dhaka marked the first day of the market reopening on Friday amid a weeklong lockdown to contain coronavirus pandemic.
Though the government allowed market reopening from 9am to 5pm until 13 April in the face of protests by hundreds of shop owners across the country who promised to comply with the virus safety guidelines, the businessmen seemed to have forgotten the word on the very first day of the reopening.
With another complete lockdown to be enforced in mid-April, they rather were worried about low customer turnout even ahead of Pahela Baishakh and Eid-ul-Fitr – the lifeblood of most of the businesses.
Traders said people were not coming for shopping except the essentials.
"Hopefully more customers will turn up and we will see some sales to ride out last year's losses," said Humayun, owner of City Fashion in Dhaka's Mili Plaza.
"I had to sit idle in last year's 66-day shutdown. Even the government did not help us after the reopening," another shop owner Mohammad Shipon complained.
With a resurgence in Covid-19 cases and deaths, the government enforced a weeklong lockdown from 5 April, shuttering markets and shopping malls across the country to flatten the virus curve.
In the face of widespread protests by the traders who sustained unprecedented business losses during the virus-led shutdown last year, the market closure was lifted Friday.
Now traders said the fresh stay-at-home order from 14 April with markets and shopping malls shuttered will deal them another mighty blow.
"If another lockdown is enforced, we will miss the Eid sales this year too. It will be devastating," said Kamrul Hasan Tushar, manager of STEP footwear Sobujbag outlet.
People forgot mask, social distancing
Visiting several shopping malls Friday, many markets were found with no disinfection tunnel at the entrances. After the market reopening last year, Dhaka's popular shopping malls for the first time set up those tunnels as virus safety measures.
Instead of such tunnel, shops at Lili Plaza at Mouchak and Nahar Plaza at Hatirpool had hand-sanitizing arrangements at the business entities.
But neither the customers nor the sellers had been sanitizing them.
Besides, the customers and traders at the two malls did not have social distancing inside the shops. A good number of customers and sellers did not even have their face covered. And, all of them had their excuses ready to defend why they took off the face masks.
However, many businessmen agreed that the shopping spots could be safer if both buyers and sellers maintain the health rules properly.
"Those who are not following the health guidelines should face the music," said Saiful Molla of Sky Cosmetics at Eastern Plaza.
Another shop owner Sohel Arman recommended conducting mobile courts regularly forcing people to comply with the rules.