An unusual calmness has pervaded Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Sunday as panic-stricken people preferred to stay indoors while many others have left the city out of fear of getting infected by deadly coronavirus.
The city streets, restaurants and shopping malls and other hotspots for hangout, usually teeming with huge city dwellers, now stand empty as the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge in the country in addition to claiming two lives.
The whole of Dhaka city appeared almost deserted as people refused to venture out unless any urgent need with the closure of educational institutions and many establishments and limited activities at government and private offices.
Most roads in the capital had only thin traffic since morning while a good number of shops kept their shutters down.
City transport operators said they are keeping around 70 percent of their vehicles off the roads for shortage of passengers amid the experts’ suggestion to avoid public transport.
There were also very few vehicles of app-based ride-sharing companies available, with the apps taking inordinately long time to match customers with drivers. People were seen preferring rickshaws for their movement.
The usual busy spots of the capital like Motijheel, Gulistan, Jatrabari, Mouchak, Moghbazar, Rampura, Karwanbazar, Mirpur, Mohakhali, Gulshan, and Banani - looked free from traffic congestion that one normally confronts every day. It almost resembles the look during Eid holidays.
Traffic inspector Akhtar Hossain of Traffic (North Division), posted in Uttara House Building area, said the presence of vehicles on the streets came down to 70 percent.
He said the owners of different passenger bus services are not plying their vehicles for lack of passengers. “As the city dwellers prefer to stay home due to fear of coronavirus, the number of private vehicles, including private cars and microbuses, were also very thin on the streets. Besides, the number of motorbikes and CNG-auto rickshaws run by ride-sharing companies was also thin,” TI Akhter observed.
He said if anyone wants to go to Banani from Abdullahpur of Uttara, he or she can reach there without wasting any time at any traffic signal.
Besides, Akhter said, many people left the city for their villages over the last one week.
Echoing Akther, another traffic inspector, Asaduzzaman, who is posted in Shantinagar area, said almost all the city streets wore a deserted look as few vehicles were in operation.
Malibgh and Shantinagar intersections now became signal-free points for lack of heavy traffic, he added.
Replying to a question, Asad said around 60-70 percent traffic came down due to the fear of coronavirus outbreak.
Humayun Kabir Tapan, owner of Desh Sotabdi A/C Paribahan, said his company has 20 A/C buses that run from Uttara Abdullahpur to Azimpur. “The number of passengers started declining since the coronavirus cases were detected in the country. We’re now forced to cut down the number of buses for lack of passengers,” he said.
Kabir aid they are operating only 10 buses with few passengers.
Shahidur Rahman, manager of Karwan Bazar Branch Primier Bank, said it usually takes him around two hours to reach his office from his house at Mirpur-12. “I reached my office today (Sunday) by a bus of Trust Paribahan in just 30 minutes as the roads were totally free.”
Manik, owner of Ma Radhuni restaurant at Mouchak, said usually 500-600 customers visit their shops to have breakfast and lunch every day. “But only 30-40 customers came to our restaurant as of 4pm today (Sunday). We get even better number of customers during Eid holidays.”
He said people now prefer to stay at home as they are coming out only to buy food and kitchen items, and medicines. “So, we’re planning to keep our restaurant shut for a few days.”
Ismail, a shop owner at Bashundhara City Shopping Complex, said customers are avoiding shopping malls to avoid mass gatherings for their safety. “I didn’t see even a single customer yesterday (Saturday). That’s why I didn’t open the shop today.”