Thousands of people are scrambling to get the last trains, buses and ferries before a nationwide transport shutdown takes hold.
Tens of thousands of people rushed to get the last trains, buses and ferries out of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka before a nationwide transport disruption to stop the spread of the coronavirus took hold.
As new cases and deaths reach record highs, the Bangladesh government has ordered all offices and stores to close for eight days starting at 6 a.m. (00:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
The country will be practically cut off with all international flights interrupted and domestic transport reduced.
Many in the capital of 20 million people desperately searched for a vehicle to take them back to their home villages and towns, with taxi and bus fares rising rapidly.
Crowds besieged the city’s main bus stations, though most intercity routes came to a halt on April 5 after authorities imposed further restrictions.
“So we can’t take them home,” said bus company manager Rakib Rahman. “But the drivers of microbuses, cars and motorcycles are making their fortunes on this crazy race.”
Hamidur Rahman, a 25-year-old mall worker, was unable to get a minibus from Gabtoli bus station to his home in the western district of Jessore.
“A regular bus ticket to Jessore costs a maximum of 500 taka ($ 6). We have to pay 1,000 ($ 12) for a seat, ”he told AFP news agency, after regrouping with 12 other people to hire an entire bus.
Police also prevented people from getting on trucks that were taking some out of town, fearing the cramped vehicles could easily allow the virus to spread.
Most of the exodus were made up of informal workers in Dhaka’s shops, offices and markets.
Didarul Alam, a 22-year-old student and part-time primary school tutor, said he could not afford to stay in Dhaka.
“Students tell me they don’t need my services. The maid who cooks in our dorm is gone, so I’m going too, ”he said.
The South Asian nation of 168 million people has recorded 684,756 cases and 9,739 deaths, but the number of daily cases has increased sevenfold in one month.
Bangladesh hospitals say they are overwhelmed with new cases and daily deaths have more than doubled.