Shubho Hasan and his wife went to the Chandni Chawk market yesterday with their 10-year-old girl and minor boy. None of the children were wearing masks. In the midst of the huge crowd, the family seemed helpless in the face of increased possibility of Covid-19 infection.
Shubho told The Business Standard, "There is none other than us at home to look after the children. Besides, as Eid comes near, the children demand new clothes, so we brought them with us. But when we arrived at the market, we became scared seeing so many people. I probably would not have come if I had known it would be so crowded."
There was a similar picture in all the other markets across the city as a large number of people flocked to the markets yesterday, the last Friday before Eid-ul-Fitr. Many of them were not maintaining health and safety measures and social distancing rules.
Often there was no room for walking or moving around without coming in close contact with other people in the shops and market alleys.
Shop owners said customers made the most purchases yesterday during this Ramadan.
The businesspersons were relieved as the sales were good due to the large number of buyers, but almost no one was following the hygiene rules. Most buyers were wearing masks, but they were not wearing them properly covering their noses and mouths.
Due to the large number of buyers, there were tailbacks on the roads in front of the markets. Pedestrians were struggling to walk through the crowds on the sidewalks adjacent to New Market, Chandni Chawk, Gausia, Noor Mansion, Chandrima, Bashundhara Shopping Center, Motaleb Plaza, Eastern Plaza and several other shopping centers in New Elephant Road, Farmgate, and Mirpur.
Experts said even the rate of infection may not increase immediately due to the unsanitary behaviour of the buyers and sellers in the country's markets, but it will have an impact in June.
Infectious diseases specialist and former director of Disease Control, Directorate General of Health Services Professor Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed told TBS that the government was first and foremost responsible for the free movement of shoppers in shopping malls and non-compliance with hygiene rules.
"Shopping malls are not such an important business area that people will not be able to buy what they need if they are closed. Opening them was the biggest mistake," said Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, who was also the former chief scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
"It would have been possible to control everything if the government wanted. The Covid-19 infections will multiply due to this crowd, but the effects may not be seen this month. We have to suffer for this uncontrolled gathering in June," he opined.
Tasneem Ahmed, a cloth seller in New Market, told TBS, "The number of buyers has been a bit high over the last two to three days. As it is the last Friday before Eid, the crowd is a little bigger today."
"The market authorities were making announcements frequently urging people to follow hygiene rules, but they are difficult to maintain due to the pressure of the buyers," he added.
Deen Islam, a clothing shop owner at Noor Mansion, told TBS, "The sales today (Friday) is like that done during the Eid seasons before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Today, it seems that Eid is a few days away. I cannot give clothes as per the buyers' demand as I could not bring much goods due to the lockdown and suspension of public transport. So, we have to turn away many buyers."
Maqsood Alam, a bangle seller in New Market, said, "Today (Friday) we are selling goods like we did during other Ramadans. In other Eid seasons, we used to sell products worth around Tk17,000-20,000 per day. I hope we will sell that much today too."
Our correspondents saw that there was a huge crowd of people in the popular shopping malls like Bashundhara City, Motalib Plaza, and Eastern Plaza. The customers were moving by packed lifts and crowded escalators there.
Habiba Alvi, a bank official who came to shop at Bashundhara City with her husband and two children, told TBS, "Good quality items would not be available in the market after a few days. So, I did my shopping today."
She complained that the shopkeepers have pushed the prices of the goods a little higher during this Eid season.
Meanwhile, Mukti Plaza, Haque Plaza and All in All Fashion and Fabrics Houses of Mirpur-1 have also seen overflowing with crowds of shoppers.
However, despite receiving such a big crowd, many traders said their sales were not as good as they expected it would be.
Sharif Islam, a shopkeeper at Motalib Plaza, told TBS "the shops are crowded but sales were not going on as it usually goes during Ramadan. Often five people come with one customer, so the crowd seems big, but the sales are not good."
All the shops and shopping malls across the country remained closed since the 1st of Ramadan due to the ongoing lockdown, but they were reopened on 25 April on the condition of complying with hygiene rules. Besides, the government suspended public transports amid the lockdown, but it allowed to resume their operation on 6 May.