While the Coronavirus pandemic has unquestionably put a dampener on the usually festive atmosphere that surrounds Eid ul Fitr, set to be celebrated in Bangladesh tomorrow (Monday), as the day has gotten nearer, an unmistakable urge to partake in activities that traditionally mark the occasion would seem to have gradually quashed concerns over the virus.
Over the last one week or so, not only have the malls and markets opened up in line with a sympathetic government directive, even the makeshift shops on footpaths i.e. hawkers have returned to their usual spots in the city’s densely populated areas.
What is more, they have not been found wanting for business - our correspondents have found these areas filled with customers who have little to no regard for social distancing.
The government decided to allow shops and shopping malls to open from May 10, as long as they avoided crowds of shoppers at any one time and maintained health guidelines during the extended general holidays, in consideration of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.
Although the government directed that no shops will be allowed on footpaths during this time, hawkers have set up makeshift stalls on the sidewalks without maintaining minimum health guidelines.
Visiting some trading spots in city’s Shanir Akhra, Jatrabari and Gulistan, UNB found shopkeepers and customers ignoring the regulations set by the government for various reasons and continuing the shopping spree for Eid-ul-Fitr.
Near Jatrabari Chowrasta Mor, a number of shops were open even though they sell non-essential products. The logic behind the shopkeepers’ decision was mainly their financial crisis.
“We have to suffer a lot if we don’t continue the business. We are aware of the threat, but we have no other choice,” one of the shop-owners told UNB. A considerable number of customers is flocking to these shops but neither the shopkeepers nor the buyers are following the health guidelines.
The UNB correspondents found these conditions are not being met in the shops that have been opened in the said areas.
Shanir Akhra area has been seemingly decorated with numerous shops on sidewalks where buyers are flocking without following health regulations.
A seller named Sumon told UNB that he has been setting up shop for the last three days. “But sales are very low. Buyers are coming in fewer numbers.”
When asked about health concerns, he said "I have been home for a long time. You can’t run a family with zero income. Aside from family expenses I have to pay rent. Ultimately we are bound to deal with danger.”
Shamsunnahar, a customer, said she had come to buy clothes and cosmetics for her young son and daughter.
“My children will be very angry if I don’t shop for them in Eid. They have been nagging me to come to the market for a few days,” she told UNB.
Another shopper in Gulistan named Shoaib argued that it is not wrong to indulge in some shopping while maintaining social distancing.
“This market is not very far from my house. I’m here to quickly buy some clothes for my family. I’m hopeful about getting them at a cheaper price,” he said.
Despite the health warnings blaring from a loudspeaker on a loop, alongside warnings for hawkers to keep away by the police, neither of those two messages seemed to find any takers. As the saying goes, the customer is king, and in gaining that stamp of approval, neither the shops nor the hawkers encountered a problem.
Pesky journalists trying to talk about social distancing or health and hygiene were perhaps the most some of them had to face, by way of any irritation.