Passenger launches have restarted, after two months, plying on different routes, at the existing fare rate
Social distancing and other health measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 were not maintained at the Sadarghat launch terminal on Sunday when waterway vehicles resumed carrying passengers to different destinations through 42 routes across the country.
After 66 days of a break, passengers gathered, moved and rushed to board vessels just like they used to do in normal times when there was no pandemic.
The launch terminal was flooded with passengers and they waited for the launches without maintaining minimum distancing from each other.
Some passengers did not even cover their faces with a mask, which is a rudimentary safety measure.
However, the Ministry of Shipping and the Launch Owners Association claimed that they have arranged the required health measures to control the virus' spread.
Jahangir Alam Khan, senior information and public relations officer at the Ministry of Shipping told The Business Standard that germ-killing tunnels have been set up at all river ports and launch owners have been asked to provide hand sanitiser for passengers.
"We have sent a notice with safety guidelines to all the ports. The guidelines have also been announced through loudspeakers at the terminals," he said.
Meanwhile, launch owners also claimed that they are transporting passengers following the ministry's guidelines.
"We are taking the passengers following BIWTA's guidelines. Passengers on the decks have been asked to sit at a distance from each other. We are checking passengers' temperatures at the entrance and sanitising them there," said Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice president of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carrier's) Association.
He also said the owners kept the launch fare unchanged considering the people's current financial situation.
However, he fears the fare will have to be increased because owners will incur losses if they carry passengers and maintain social distancing.
"After ten days' observation we will sit for a meeting with the ministry to decide whether the fare will be changed or not," he added.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) decided on Saturday that passenger launches would resume services maintaining social distancing, and the fare rates would remain unchanged.
A press release reads that a decision will be taken with regard to increasing waterway fares after considering the presence of passengers in the next 10 days.
BIWTA also asked passenger launches to operate by following all health regulations while disinfection tunnels would be set up for passengers at every terminal and the temperature of every passenger would be checked before the journey.