Bus operators, passengers continue flouting health rules

Friday, 7 May 2021

Abdul Quddus Ripon, the helper of a Taranga Plus Paribahan bus on Banasree-Mohammadpur route in Dhaka, was holding his facemask with his hand while shouting for passengers on Friday afternoon.

“I’ve kept it because the government has made it mandatory,” he said, “I wear the mask when I see the police. Otherwise, I sometimes take it off.”

The government has made wearing masks outdoors obligatory as large studies suggest the practice can dramatically reduce the risks of infection, reports bdnews24.com.

To control a second wave of infections, which has been largely blamed on complacency leading people to let their guard down, the government imposed a stricter nationwide lockdown on Apr 5, shutting down public transport services.

The public transportation system reopened Thursday on condition that the transporters and passengers fully follow health rules, especially wear masks and maintain physical distancing.

On the second day of the reopening on Friday, passengers on the buses of Dhaka more or less maintained physical distancing as the number of travellers dropped because it was a weekly holiday.

But many of the transporters and passengers did not wear masks and no one was sanitising the hands.

Keeping masks in hand, bag or pocket; masks dangling from ear or chin-masking were common.

Moreover, some buses were not cleaned at all, let alone sanitised, after the long shutdown.

Khokon Mia, a helper of Turag Paribahan, was competing with other helpers trying to woo passengers, without a mask or maintaining social distancing.

“My mask fell off on the street. I’ll buy one later,” he said, arguing that he did not need a mask now that the crowd was thin.

One of the passengers said he took his mask off after seeing fewer travellers. “I feel discomfort wearing masks all day long.”

Md Faruq, a Victor Paribahan bus driver, said he pulled the mask to his chin because it becomes difficult for him to breathe with the mask on when he is sweating.

A helper of Akash Paribahan was carrying a bottle of hand sanitiser, but no one was using it. 

Ashraful Islam, a driver of a Shikor Paribahan bus on Mirpur-Jatrabari route, said all the transporters and passengers should follow the health rules to the letter.

“Otherwise, infections may rise and the government may re-impose the shutdown,” he pointed out.

Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, the secretary general of Passenger Welfare Association, said, “Many passengers do not try to understand that breaching the rules may lead to deaths.”

“We’ve always told the workers that the risk will rise if we break the rules. It's unacceptable. I'm asking all to follow the health rules,” said Osman Ali, the general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation.