Public transport on river, road and rail routes across the country will resume service from Sunday, even as the coronavirus situation in terms of its penetration across the country and evidence of community-based transmission paint a far bleaker picture today than they did two months ago, around the end of March, when the lockdowns started to be imposed.
Bangladesh on Saturday reported its highest number of deaths from the coronavirus in a single day, 28, that was the same just 6 days ago on May 24th as well. The overall death tally has surged to 610. On Friday, the health authorities recorded the highest detection of 2,523 cases in 24 hours until Friday morning.
At this point of paradox of saving lives or livelihood, the government has allowed limited operation of public transport and offices from May 31 -June 15 and decided not to extend the general holidays.
Meanwhile, the authorities directed all concerned to maintain strict health guidelines during operating public transports.
Buses, and other vehicles will start running on highways as well from Monday, keeping upto 50 percent of their seats vacant, according to Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.
Quader also said passengers will have to maintain three-foot distance between each other while getting on and off the bus, as well as while the bus is in motion. ‘Stern action’ will be taken against vehicles defying the government directives, Quader said while briefing journalists from his residence.
The Minister also said that passengers, drivers, helpers, counter workers, must wear face masks while hand sanitiser, soaps and hand washing facilities must be available at terminals.
He directed bus owners, labour organisations and other stakeholders to form terminal-based monitoring teams and arrange counseling for drivers and helpers to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) on Saturday recommended raising bus fares by 80 percent, in order to compensate bus owners carrying 50 percent less passengers to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.
“Road, Transport and Bridges Ministry will take the final decision,” BRTA acting Chairman Yunus Ali Molla told UNB.
Even though Roads Secretary Nazrul Islam had announced earlier that the fare issue would be resolved on Saturday, nothing definitive would seem to have emerged till filing of this report
According to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), launch and steamer services on 34 river routes across the country will resume after over two months.
“Primarily, 40 to 50 launches will operate on these routes and their number will be increased depending on the number of passengers,” said AKM Arif Uddin, joint director, BIWTA. He said launch and steamer services will connect a number of districts through 34 routes.
Passengers can travel from Dhaka on Barishal route including Chandpur, Shariatpur, Muladi, Bhola, Patuakhali, barguna, Jhalatathi, Pirojpur, Bhandaria, Khulna, Morellganj from the day, added Arif Uddin.
BIWTA staff on Saturday were seen preparing the Sadarghat Launch Terminal while labourers were seen busy preparing vessels, reports UNB Keraniganj Correspondent.
Green Line Water Service from Lalkuthi area in Dhaka will set out for Barishal at 8am on Sunday while other launches on Dhaka-Chandpur, Dhaka-Shariatpur routes will also leave the terminal.
Several launches will leave Sadarghat Terminal for Barishal, Bhola, Patuakhali and Pirojpur between 5pm and 9pm.
However, government-owned steamer Madhumati will leave Badamtali terminal for Barishal, Morelganj and Khulna at 6pm.
Also read: BRTA recommends 80% bus fare hike
Shahidul Islam Bhuiyan, owner of MV Parabat Launch, said they will carry half the passengers of the launch’s capacity.
“We haven’t received any directives about increasing the fare yet,” he added.
Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan on Saturday said eight pairs of trains will start running from Sunday after a disruption of over two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Passengers can purchase tickets online, five days days ahead of their travel while no tickets will be available at counters, he said.
Health guidelines must be maintained during train journeys, the Minister said, adding that 50 percent tickets against the total seats will be sold to maintain distance among the passengers.
The Minister also said that passengers will have to maintain their own safety and follow some rules while traveling by trains.
Passengers must wear face masks while entering the rail stations and traveling by trains and they have to use designated doors for getting on and off the trains, the Minister said.
For health safety, no food will be provided inside the trains, and passengers will have to reach stations one hour ahead of their journey for measuring their body temperatures.
No trains will be stopping at the Dhaka Airport, Joydevpur and Narsingdi, he added.
Later from June 3 (Wednesday), eleven more pairs of trains will run on other routes, Minister added.
Domestic flights resume Monday
Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) on May 28 said domestic flights would resume on Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Syedpur routes from June 1.
“But the embargo on international flights will be in place until June 15,” CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal Md Mofidur Rahman told UNB.
Primarily, four domestic flights will operate on a small scale and later gradually flights on other routes will resume, he said.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines also decided to resume its flights from June 1, while the international flights will remain suspended until further notice.
On Saturday, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali visited the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and said that necessary health safety measures have been taken for passengers of domestic flights.
All passengers are urged to maintain health guidelines and physical distancing, he added.