Most of the drivers and their assistants from India, along with the transport workers of Bangladesh, are not following the health rules at Benapole Land Port properly and this lax enforcement of rules is raining further spread of a more transmissible coronavirus variant.
Indian transporters walk freely in the land port, many without following the rules on social distancing or wearing masks, reports bdnews24.com.
The authorities have been strict about keeping the port closed for travellers from India. Only Bangladeshis with special permission can get through the port but need to go into 14-day institutional quarantine.
But the rules for the transporters engaged in export and import are not properly enforced.
Shahidul Islam, a Bangladesh truck driver, said the authorities are spraying disinfectants on the trucks and running medical check-ups on the transporters when the vehicles enter the port.
“Masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) were mandatory once. We don’t use them now as no one tells us anything.”
The government deployed Border Guard Bangladesh to stop the Indian truckers from roaming freely in and around the port at the beginning of June.
“We are keeping a close eye on the Indian truck drivers,” said Lt Col Mohammad Selim Reza, commander of Jashore-49 BGB Battalion.
From the Petrapole side in India, 350 to 450 trucks enter Benapole daily while around 300 trucks take goods from Bangladesh to India.
More than 1,500 trucks visit the port daily to transport the goods around Bangladesh, and most of them flout the pandemic health rules.
These factors together have directly put at risk the health of around 15,000 people at the port, including employees of government and private organisations and workers handling the goods.
Aminur Rahman, a trader who exports and imports goods through the port, said it takes at least one week to release the goods when a truck arrives from India.
“The drivers hang around at the tea stalls and markets outside the port. Now it has come under control following the deployment of BGB.
“But the drivers and their assistants are still mingling with the Bangladeshis inside the port. So the risks of the virus spreading remain,” said Aminur.
Mamun Tarafder, deputy director of traffic at the port, said workers are spraying disinfectants on the trucks from India and the transporters are undergoing thermal check-up before entering the port.
“The port is alert to ensure health rules.”
The Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been dominating in India, is now spreading at a higher rate in parts of Bangladesh as well.