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Public transports pose great risk of Covid-19 spread

No effective steps in sight for mass transit to check the virus

Published : 13 Mar 2020 10:07 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 07:46 PM

Public transports in the country have not yet taken any effective measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus through them though the pathogen has affected Bangladesh after hitting over a hundred countries. Passengers said buses, trains and launches have not taken any large-scale cleanliness programme, leaving the public transports at risk of spreading of the virus to those travelling on the transports. Health experts of the country earlier warned that there is a great risk of spreading of coronavirus (COVID-19) through public transports unless they launch a vigorous cleanliness campaign.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has suggested avoiding mass transit to check the spread of COVID-19. However, the socio-economic context of the country has made it difficult for ordinary people to avoid public transports. Talking to Bangladesh Post, General Secretary of Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association Khandaker Enayet Ullah said they have instructed bus owners to keep clean their vehicles to prevent the virus spread.

"We’ve given some instructions to the bus owners. Owners have been instructed through SMS to clean buses at the end of every trip, spray germicide inside them and ensure a clean environment,” he said. Bus operator Hanif Enterprise’s General Manager Mosharaf Hossain, however, said they have not received any instruction or guideline for coronavirus prevention.

On the other hand, bus passengers said they have not seen any special cleanliness efforts by the operators until Friday and expressed fear that unclean vehicles could contribute to spread of the pathogen. “They (owners) must clean the dusty seats, seat covers and glass of buses. Cleanliness can save us from coronavirus,” Aminul Islam, a private company employee, told Bangladesh Post on Friday.

Another passenger, Sudipto Roy, said, “I’m worried as three persons here are infected with coronavirus. Despite risk, I’m still using bus as I cannot afford avoiding public transport.” COVID-19, which emerged from Wuhan city of China, has so far claimed at least 5,116 lives globally and infected 138,271 people in 118 countries. Of them, 62,470 are currently infected while 70,719 patients recovered. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it a pandemic.

Enayet Ullah said his association has called a meeting with the owners of buses operating in Dhaka city on Saturday. “Hopefully, an effective initiative will be taken at the meeting to check coronavirus spread.” Railway authorities said they have taken various steps, including distribution of leaflets at every train and station, to raise public awareness about the virus in their efforts to fight it.

“Adequate quantity of hand wash and sanitizer is being kept inside every train and station. Cleaning activities have also been strengthened,” said Railway Ministry Senior Secretary Mofazzel Hossain. Owners of passenger launches said they have instructed taking cleanliness measures in their vessels, but leaders of launch worker unions said they are yet to receive any instruction over coronavirus.

Declaring coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, WHO has asking countries to take ‘urgent and aggressive’ action to stop ‘unnecessary’ sufferings and deaths.

“We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday night at the media briefing on COVID-19 at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva.