City dwellers who cannot afford private transports are seemingly reluctant to travel by public transports as they fear they would come into contact with the COVID-19 infections inside vehicles.
This has happened because people fear that shared public transport services do not follow physical distancing and safety protocols.
People are still not getting confidence in using public transport for various reasons including non-observance of hygiene rules and standing and carrying extra passengers.
Most of them are not boarding public transport due to lack of trust and confidence. Although some passengers use public transport for special needs, most of them are using alternative transports.
In particular, people have more complaints about city service buses plying in the capital Dhaka. Most of the passengers who used to take local or seating service buses for office or other purposes are now forced to take alternative vehicles at extra cost. They are using rickshaws, CNG auto-rickshaws, app-based motorcycles or some other transports.
The government initially announced a nationwide shutdown of public transport due to the corona virus. After that, in accordance with the hygiene rules, one passenger was allowed to travel in each of the two seats. At that time, a 40-seat bus could carry 20 passengers and the fare was increased by 60 percent.
Lastly, from the first of this month, the government stopped the increased fare and instructed to pick up passengers in each seat in compliance with the health rules. There, it said, passengers will get up in each seat according to the hygiene rules and there is no chance to carry extra passengers.
However, the buses have not been able to get many passengers in the last 10 days even though the increased fares have been stopped. The bus authorities complained that although there were some passengers during office hours, there were not many passengers on the bus during the day.
They said, passengers used to wait for the buses, but now the buses are not going to be full even after waiting for minutes. Especially female passengers do not want to get on the bus.
Moving around the city’s some busiest points, it was seen that some passengers waiting for the buses. But more passengers are waiting for rickshaws and auto-rickshaws. Some are waiting by calling vehicles through ride sharing mobile apps.
Nahid Ahmed, a private company official, said he is a senior officer at a corporate office in Banglamotor, lives in Mirpur. Before corona, he used to commute to the office on seating service buses every day. But even after opening the office during corona, he no longer has the courage to take on the bus.
After the first few days of boarding, he noticed that the buses were not following proper hygiene rules. Most passengers on the bus do not wear masks. Some people wear masks but keep their mouths open or their noses open. Someone is hanging by the ears. No one is even trying to cover the face when sneezing or coughing.
Nahid said, “Many people do not understand that it is corona period, it can cause harm to others. So he is forced to spend a lot of money, and he is using CNG auto-rickshaws.”
While talking to this correspondent, another passenger named Imranul Haque, said, “After passengers get off, bus seats should be cleaned with disinfectant spray before new passengers get on; But the buses don't seem to be doing that. Apart from that, there is no way to know the physical condition of a passenger. After thinking about everything, I am still thinking of not getting on the bus.”
Akmol Miah, the driver of Labbaik Paribahan, said, "Where there are no passengers to fill the bus, how can I take the passengers standing there. However, passengers are available on one or two trips during office hours. The rest of the time more than half the seats remain vacant.”
In response to a question, he said, “We are also afraid of corona virus. Who does not fear illness or death? I try to follow the hygiene rules as much as possible. If the passengers are not aware, it becomes impossible for us alone to maintain proper hygiene.”