Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan has said only those who have purchased their tickets online for the Eid journey will be able to travel by train this year during the Eid-ul-Azha holidays.
“To reduce the risk of Covid-19, no additional passengers will be able to get on trains this time,” he said in an online interview with UNB.
This year, Bangladesh Railway authority took an initiative to sell all of its tickets online through their mobile app and website. The minister said this timely initiative is for avoiding the huge crowds.
“Every year we used to sell some tickets online and the rest at the counter drawing a huge crowd there. To control this, we have sold all the train tickets online, so that there is no crowd at the counter of any station,” he said, reiterating that it is all for a safe journey.
“There is a possibility of spreading coronavirus during the Eid journey. That is why we have set up access control at Kamalapur and Airport railway stations to ensure the safety of the passengers,” he added.
The minister noted that hand sanitizing stations have been set up at the railway stations and trains are being disinfected as well. “Alongside these activities, we have decided to carry half the passengers on the train.”
He elaborated on the benefits of selling all tickets virtually. “The passengers will purchase tickets through the mobile app. As a result, there is no opportunity for anyone to go on the train except the passengers and we are not allowing anyone at the station if no one has a ticket,” he said.
There will be no stoppages for the trains leaving Dhaka at the Airport, Joydebpur, and Narsingdi stations to get rid of unwanted passengers.
The Railways Minister told UNB that the government plans to expand the use of trains in delivering products.
“Air-conditioned refrigerator wagons are coming from abroad for delivering fish, meat, milk and other perishable food items to different parts of the country,” he said.
Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim said that over one crore cattle are ready in the country for Qurbani (sacrifice) during the Eid-ul-Azha this year.
“Ill or sick animals with diseases will not be allowed to enter the sacrificial animal market and medical teams will be active in each market,” the Minister told UNB in an online interview.
Asked about the possibility of the sick animal entering the market, the Minister said “The authorities will strictly monitor that and the medical team will not allow owners to take their ill animals into the market.”
“There’s a religious norm as well that sacrificing a sick animal is not legal and the sacrifice means nothing in that case,” he said adding that during this Covid-19 pandemic, we won’t let people get sick by consuming meat of sick animals.
Minister kept on saying that on every spot from city to rural area, veterinary doctors will be there and check each and every animal’s health status.
Asked about the number of medical teams in the capital, the Minister said “the number is not yet fixed, but medical teams will be in every animal market.”
Besides, veterinary surgeons of upazila level and their assistants in field level will go to every sacrificial animal market, he said.
If any cattle farm owner desires to get a certificate for their animal, it will be provided, said the Minister, adding that “We don’t want any sacrifice to be conducted with sick animals.”
UNB wanted to know from the Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim, if he has taken any steps to stop entry of harmful steroid and hormonal medicine for animals through borders before the ensuing Eid-ul-Azha.
To that question, the Minister said “Border security is not under my Ministry.”
“We urged the authorities concerned to stop animal entry from India, Myanmar or any country as sufficient numbers of animals are being produced here in Bangladesh,” he added.
The Home Ministry and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to be vigilant in this regard, he said adding that Livestock offices in bordering areas were also asked to be alert as no animal can enter Bangladesh illegally.
Livestock Minister also urged all to inform BGB, Police, Local Administration if they have any information about sacrificial animal entry through borders. Actions will be taken, he said.
Answering a question about the Livestock Ministry’s step to stop rawhide smuggling, the Minister said BGB will supervise this issue.
“We don’t want a single rawhide going out through the border,” he said.
The Commerce Ministry will see if it is necessary to export rawhide or not, but we want fare price for it and let it not be spoiled, Karim said.
Asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic would reduce the number of sacrifices, the Minister said “We have 1 crore sacrificial animals for this year’s Qurbani.”
Usually some family sacrifices five to six animals during Eid-ul-Azha, said the Minister adding that “We fear that they will not do that this year.”
Meanwhile, the low-income families have been struggling to recover the financial loss of Covid-19 pandemic, cyclone Amphan and Bulbul, he said.
“I think that some will not sacrifice animals if they are incapable of, and middle-income people also may not participate in Qurbani this year,” the Minister said.
I guess the number of sacrifices will come down this year in comparison with the previous year, he said however, “farmers are ready to provide one crore sacrificial animals.”
The owner of two private clinics and diagnostic centres in Jashore’ Manirampur operated on patients although he neither has any medical degree or experience.
“Abdul Hai, owner of two branches of Moon Hospital & Diagnostic centres, was conducting operations identifying himself as a doctor,” Jashore acting Civil Surgeon Dr Abu Maud said on Monday night.
“He was playing with the lives of general people,” said Dr Maud adding that both of the centres were sealed off and the district administration will be informed about this fake doctor.
Dr Maud said they sealed off six hospitals and diagnostic centres on Monday.
They are- Satata Diagnostic Centre, Adhunik Diagnostic Centre in Jessore town, two branches of Moon Hospital and Diagnostic Centre in Monirampur upazila, one in Hospital Intersection and the other in Kuada area, New Pragati Hospital & Diagnostic Centre, and New Life Diagnostic Centre.
Meanwhile, Matribhasha Clinic & Diagnostic Centre in Khajura area, and Mohua Clinic in Basundia area were sealed off on Sunday and Wednesday, he added.
Dr Abu Maud also said that the owners of these institutions submitted faulty applications online that’s why they were out of reach.
50pc clinics running illegally
A total of 211 among 262 hospitals and diagnostic centres were identified as illegal as they were conducting surgeries, diagnostics activities without permission with expired licenses.
Of them, 105 started medical activities just after applying online without completing the full process while 106 did not renew their licenses.
Only 51 medical institutions kept their licenses updated.
Almost half of 68 clinics and diagnostic centres have been running illegally in district town and sadar upazila, said the acting civil surgeon.
“The upazila’s picture is more serious as billboard-based health institutions have been cheating general people in the name of providing treatment,” he added.
Dr Maud said that most of them are run by quack technicians and they provide various medical reports at their will.
Clinics and diagnostic centres hire doctors for conducting operations at their illegal institutions, he added.
Hit hard by Covid-19 fallout, businesses in the tourism sector in the beach town of Cox's Bazar look for a gradual comeback after Eid-ul-Azha eyeing the next winter as an opportunity to stay afloat by hosting tourists from home and abroad in the hub of the country's tourism industry.
Around 470 hotels and motels, over 2,000 food outlets, Burmese Market, tourism-based business houses and thousands of workers in the sector have remained almost idle since March 18 following the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
"Tourism and relevant businesses will be allowed to reopen after Eid-ul-Azha with strict conditions (health protocols) in place," Deputy Commissioner of Cox's Bazar M Kamal Hossain told UNB.
Residential hotels, restaurants and businesses linked to the tourism industry will be given permission to reopen if they can maintain health guidelines strictly and take other preventive measures to stop transmission of COVID-19 virus, he said.
"It's true that the tourism industry is hit hard and suffered losses amid the closure of tourism activities due to COVID-19. The sector will gradually regain pace if businesses are reopened after Eid-ul-Azha," Kamal Hossain said.
On March 18, the authorities imposed a ban on public gatherings at different tourist spots in Cox's Bazar, Sylhet, Chattogram and Patuakhali to slow down the coronavirus transmission among people.
Cox's Bazar district administration enforced restrictions on arrival of tourists in the city and all sorts of gathering at beaches.
"Cox's Bazar has turned empty without any tourist amid the restrictions due to COVID-19. Other related businesses also witnessed closure in the last four months resulting in colossal losses," Abul Kashem, general secretary of the Cox's Bazar Hotel Motel Guest House Owners Association, told UNB.
He said the volume of financial losses will further increase if businesses are not allowed to reopen after Eid-ul-Azha.
General Secretary of "Save Cox's Bazar Movement" advocate Ayasur Rahman said the COVID-19 has apparently paralysed the overall economic activities here.
Many people involved in the tourism business have become jobless while nobody knows when the virus will disappear, he told UNB.
M Ashraf Zaman, proprietor of Hotel Kollol, said he has fallen into a trap of loan to pay salaries and utility bills in the last four months.
"Most people involved in tourism business are now depending on loans in various forms to meet their daily expenditures on family needs. They'll get a chance to survive if businesses are reopened after Eid-ul-Azha," Cox's Bazar Tour Operators Association President Rezaul Karim told UNB.
He, however, said it will be very difficult to recover the losses what they have already incurred.
Bangladesh International Hotel Association (BIHA) has said the tourism industry in the country, like other countries in the world, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with its international standard hotel sector, a vital organ of the tourism industry, suffering the most.
To salvage the sinking sector, BIHA has come up with their six-point recommendation calling upon both the public and private concerns to come forward to sway the imminent disaster.
There are over 310,000 people and their families who depend on this sector, according to BIHA.
BIHA leaders, including its President HM Hakim Ali, sought Tk 500 crore from the government's own funds to the hotel employees who have been forced to stay at home during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic which is to be disbursed among them directly on the basis of their monthly salary or through their business organizations.
The tourism sector's contribution to GDP is 4.4 per cent, said BIHA.
The COVID-19 has already caused a severe loss of about Tk 2,500 crore in the sector and if this situation continues, the loss of the hotels in Bangladesh will exceed Tk 7,000 crore by the end of this very year, BIHA said.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), more than 310,000 hotel workers and employees in Bangladesh are at risk of becoming unemployed as a result of the corona pandemic.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a 22 percent fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020.
UNWTO said the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60 percent and 80 percent as compared to 2019 figures.
The crisis in tourism business across the globe puts millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bidyanondo Foundation, known for innovative initiatives to serve the marginalised people even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit lives and livelihood in Bangladesh, have unveiled their latest initiative to feed the jobless and low-income people: an all-day all-you-can-eat buffet at an old restaurant converted into a 'Bidyanondo Mehmankhana' (Bidyanondo Guesthouse).
The organization is serving free food to almost two-thousand people every day since opening its doors on July 18 at the Khan Hotel, on Tipu Sultan road, Wari, Old Dhaka. This noble initiative has been garnering massive praise from people all over the city and became a trending issue on social media.
Since the beginning of nationwide lockdown, Bidyanondo has been fighting against the havoc of the pandemic on a larger scale of relief distribution with donations. It even started operating a full-fledged community hospital in Chittagong in a joint collaboration with Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP), for serving better healthcare to the marginalised people.
In these challenging times, when many people are unable to eat three meals in a day due to financial crisis, Bidyanondo has started operating this first community restaurant in Dhaka.
People from all walks of life are seatedunder one roof together to enjoy nutritious meals for free in Bidyanondo Mehmankhana.
While talking to UNB in detail about the holy initiative, Bidyanondo’s Dhaka unit branch manager Salman Khan Yeasin shared a heartwarming story, to begin with.
“Our Kishore da (Kishore Kumar Das), founder of Bidyanondo, had once been scolded by a restaurant authority - just for looking at the food at the shelve but not buying anything because he had no money. That incident during his childhood changed his perspective, and when we needed to start an initiative like this to serve foods to the needy ones during this crisis, he told us to immediately start this community restaurant - where no one has to look at the food helplessly or cross this place with being hungry, just because they do not have money.”
Describing the magnitude of their daily arrangements, Salman described that every day almost 50kg of flour to make roti and paratha, 50kg of chicken meat, 20kg of lentils and 4,000 eggs are being cooked to provide unlimited meals to the guests from 7 am to 9 pm.
“We did not start just for the sake of starting,” Salman continued. “We count every person as our honourable guest just like the customers in a restaurant - and we want to make them feel important, feel good. To maintain health safety, we check everyone’s body temperatures and make sure that the guests wash their hands before sitting at a table. We can serve up to 30 people at a time.”
The Khan Hotel
Speaking to UNB, Salman informed that the hotel is owned by the family of a Bidyanondo volunteer, Mohammad Arif Mahady - who came forward with his family to let the organization utilize it place for the noble venture. Currently studying at the Faridabad Arabic University In Mishkat Jamat, Arif shared his side of the story to UNB about the project and his involvement.
“This is our family hotel, and all my family members are heavily involved in the overall management,” he said. “Even my father is regularly monitoring every bit of maintenance till date and we, the brothers, often work here whenever we manage time from our schedules.”
On how he planned to let Bidyanondo use the hotel, Arif said, “Since the beginning of the lockdown, our hotel was sort of closed as people were not being able to eat outside. So when the plan was discussed among ourselves (Bidyanondo), I came up with the proposal to use this hotel and my family wholeheartedly agreed on this with further cooperation.”
Fifteen cooks and associates of the restaurant who had been furloughed by the lockdown, are now busy with preparing the foods - and three to four volunteers of Bidyanondo are working on a roster basis to monitor the overall process.
Since this community restaurant opened its doors on July 18, many low-income people including small business vendors, housemaids, beggars, cobblers and others have come here to have their daily meals.
According to Salman, to maintain the vision of not hurting anyone’s self-esteem, volunteers arranged a token system so that no one has to wait in line to receive the food like relief. If all the seats are taken, they can still collect the token and come back at a suitable time to have their meal.
He also informed UNB that the organization is planning to spread this idea of community restaurants in the whole country and soon they will be starting four other restaurants in different parts of the city.
In addition to that, Bidyanondo is also preparing to serve Eid meals and Qurbani meats to low-income people during the upcoming Eid ul Adha, both in the capital and several other parts of the country, according to Salman.