People forgo social distancing in capital for Eid shopping

People busy with Eid shopping at markets and shops in the capital are too reluctant to maintain physical distancing and health guidelines. Such an act is not only putting them at the risk of contracting coronavirus, but also spreading it to others

May 22, 2020

Dhaka: People busy with Eid shopping at markets and shops in the capital are too reluctant to maintain physical distancing and health guidelines. Such an act is not only putting them at the risk of contracting coronavirus, but also spreading it to others.

Public health experts think if this situation goes on, more people will get infected with Covid-19 in the coming days, which will be difficult for the government to tackle.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police on May 7 issued at least 12 directives for city dwellers who would visit shopping malls and markets during the pandemic in an attempt to curb the virus spread.

Visiting different markets, these correspondents found that the DMP directives were disregarded in almost everywhere. Besides, roadside vendors were seen selling dresses in the footpaths where most buyers and sellers seemed oblivious to the health directives.

The government decided to reopen shopping malls, all types of shops and other businesses from May 10 on a limited scale ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. Those would remain open from 10am to 4pm every day, according to a gazette from the cabinet division.

However, most shopping malls, including Bashundhara City Shopping Complex, Jamuna Future Park, New Market, Mouchak, Anarkoli markets, decided not to reopen at present as the number of Covid-19 cases has been spiralling.

Top leaders of Dokan Malik Samity, a platform of shop owners, earlier said the decision was also taken since an untoward situation could arise when shop employees, as instructed by the authorities, including law enforcers, would force shoppers to follow health guidelines.

They said supermarkets in Shahbagh, Palwal Market in old Paltan, markets in Gulistan and Mirpur areas will remain closed until Eid.

Police on May 12 shut down the Bangabazar market in Gulistan and two fashion outlets in Dhanmondi for flouting health safety directives.

However, markets including old Dhaka's Islampur Market, Chawkbazar, Keraniganj, Ayesha Market at Jatrabari, Dhaka New Super Market and shops in Elephant road area reopened after the government's approval.

Besides those places, small markets and shops on footpaths in Mirpur-10, 13, 2 and Mirpur 1, Golden Super Market at Lalbagh Fort, Dhanmondi Hawkers Market, Noor Mansion Shopping Centre, New Super Market, shops at Elephant road and Karwan Bazar continued to be swarmed by people.

Many were seen wearing masks but the required distancing for preventing coronavirus from spreading was still a far cry.

Mohammad Alam, a street hawker at Mirpur-10, said, "It's tough to maintain distancing at our small shops."

Asked why he opened his shop despite the risk, he said, "We finally got a chance to make some money after around one and half months. I took a Tk 35,000 loan during the lockdown to run my family." He said most hawkers set up their shops maintaining the necessary distance.

Sohel Mamun, a hawker at Mirpur-10, said, "Many markets and shops in Mirpur are closed for which we are getting a good number of customers. But no one is following physical distancing."

A trader at Dhanmondi Hawkers Market said many customers are just too reluctant. "We request them to stand at a certain distance from each other but they don't listen. We also make them use hand sanitiser before entering shops," he added.

Bangladesh Shop Owners Association president Helal Uddin Aziz said there are 3 lakh shops in the city of which around 15 percent are now open.

"It's quite tough to maintain 100 percent health guidelines. Some shoppers act as if there is no virus threat. Traders are trying their best to maintain health guidelines while running their business," Aziz said.

Karwan Bazar (No-2) Super Market Traders Association president Shamsul Alam Bulbul said 50 percent shops at their market have been opened.

As many of the shops there sell wholesale, they did not get that many customers, he said, adding that others are expecting a rush of customers during the last few days before eid.

He said they tried to ensure health safety measures as much as they could.

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