Dhaka: Large number of people have flocked to Dhaka's ferry terminals to get out of the city before a strict national lockdown comes into force. For seven days from Thursday, no one in Bangladesh will be allowed to leave their homes unless if it is an emergency. As a result, people are fleeing the capital city for their homes in towns and villages. Covid cases in the country have surged, many linked to the Delta variant first identified in India.
The latest wave of the virus in Bangladesh began about six weeks ago. Many hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and are struggling to cope, particularly those on the border with India.
The lockdown was originally due to begin on Monday, but has now been postponed until Thursday - though officials said some restrictions will still come into force on Monday.
Because of the sharp rise in cases, rail and bus services are already suspended, with an exception for emergency services. People hoping to leave the city have resorted to hiring private vehicles, or even walking, because of the transport closures.
Many of the people fleeing are migrant workers and low income groups. Dhaka Tribune reported that there were thousands of people at just one ferry terminal, with little to no space between them. Reports say that thousands of people are trying to leave. Some ferry services have been running 24 hours a day, with more than 1,000 passengers crammed onto each trip. According to reports, all offices, including government, semi-government and private offices will remain closed during the lockdown.
A health department spokesman said police and border guards would be deployed to enforce the lockdown and stop people from leaving their homes. He added that the army could also be deployed if needed. It is a dangerous and alarming situation and if we don't contain it now, we will face an India-like situation, an official said. A second wave of Covid infections devastated India in April and May. Although the country is beginning to reopen, experts have warned it could see a third wave in the next few months.