The number of passport-holding passengers travelling to and from India through the Benapole land port has declined significantly for various reasons, including strict precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the new variant of coronavirus Omicron.
Bangladeshi passengers said an alarming spike in Covid cases in the neighbouring country, two times Covid test for passengers and hassles caused by brokers are the main reasons why the number of travellers is declining.
Those who need to travel to India for medical, business and education purposes have been suffering a lot, they said.
According to the port authorities, about 3000 passengers travelled through the land port per day on average last week, but the number of passport-holding passengers dropped to 1000 in the current week.
On January 1, 375 people went to India while 709 returned from the country and on January 2, some people left the country through the port while 864 people returned home from the country.
On January 3, the number of India-bound passengers was 491 while that of returnees was 611 and on January 4, some 442 people went to India and 639 returned. On January 5, the number of India-bound passengers was 481 while that of the returnees was 597.
Port sources said some 18 lakh passengers travel to and from India for different purposes every year.
On March 13, 2020, India imposed restrictions on travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it allowed domestic flights from May, 2020, and the entry of foreigners except tourists from October.
Abdul Jalil, deputy director (traffic) of Benapole port, said, “The number of passengers travelling to and from India and Bangladesh has dropped significantly. From January 1 to January 5, some 5,687 people traveled between the two countries.”
Alarmed by the rising Omicron cases, India's federal government two weeks ago warned states that "the variant is three times more transmissible than the Delta" and directed them to take action to rein in its spread.