Bangladesh allows bus, launch services for workers as factories reopen in lockdown

Mehedi Hassan Niaz

Published : August 3, 2021 , 11:25 am

The authorities have allowed bus and launch operators to resume services for workers who are facing trouble to return to cities with the factories reopening amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Bus services will continue throughout Sunday following instructions from the home ministry, said Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association.

“The services will continue in the night (on Sunday) if necessary,” he said on Saturday night.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, or BIWTA, said Dhaka-bound launches can operate until 12pm on Sunday.

The operators can also take passengers from Dhaka, said Mizanur Rahman, a deputy director of BIWTA.

Abul Kalam Jhontu, general manager of MV Sundarban launch company which operates on the busy Dhaka-Barishal route, said it would not be possible for them to resume the services at such short notice.

“We could have started if we had been informed in the morning.”

The ferry terminals in Munshiganj’s Shimulia and Madaripur’s Banglabazar teemed with large crowds on Saturday despite the ongoing lockdown restrictions on travel following the government’s announcement of factory reopenings.

Garment factories and other manufacturing plants will reopen from Sunday, which has pushed thousands of people to try and make the trip to Dhaka.

Factories were closed from Jul 23 as part of the government’s efforts to curb the COVID pandemic, but pressure from factory owners has forced the government to backtrack.

On Friday, a notice from the Cabinet Division said that factories would be exempted from lockdown restrictions from 6 am on Sunday.

Scores of people have been crossing a rough Padma River since Saturday morning, while ignoring the health and social distancing directives.

As buses and other public transport were suspended amid the lockdown, people came to Banglabazar on motorcycles or three-wheelers to catch the ferry.

Launch and speed boat services were also suspended, leaving ferries to bear the brunt of the passenger rush. People swarmed onto the vessels without heeding regulations and many were without masks.