As the deadly Indian Covid-19 variant has been detected in Bangladesh and people's frantic journey towards hometowns on Saturday continued amid the lockdown, there is a fresh fear that infections may spread further.
With long-haul transports suspended, all the government's efforts to discourage people from travelling to their village homes failed as thousands used alternative methods, such as pick-up vans, CNG-run auto rickshaws, and trucks, to head home.
Professor Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, said the law enforcement agencies alone cannot stop the exodus if people themselves are not careful.
"Those who are going home to celebrate Eid with their near and dear ones amid the crisis are a threat to their families. They may get infected on their way. Then once they are home, their elderly parents and others who are living safely in villages may be infected," she explained.
"The priority is yours – enjoy Eid or be infected. The consequences will be terrible if no one cares," she told reporters at a briefing on Saturday.
She said six people had been diagnosed with the Indian variant of Covid-19 in Jashore, adding they had returned home from the neighbouring country recently.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) on Friday said ferry services would remain suspended in the day from Saturday midnight on all river routes. It also said ferries would run only in the evening to transport goods but not people.
But it had to resume services on Saturday morning as thousands unaware of the suspension gathered at Mawa ferry terminal. Many vehicles, including cars, microbuses and freight trucks, were also stuck on both sides waiting to cross the river.
"I wanted to stay in Dhaka as I had enrolled in a course at a coaching centre. But the coaching centre is now closed ahead of Eid. Also, meals will not be cooked at my mess. There is no way I can stay in Dhaka," said Abrar Mohammad, who was heading for Faridpur.
Drivers and helpers of several vehicles in Dhaka said they had informed passengers of the suspension of ferry services but the latter had paid no heed. They also said they were transporting passengers to Mawa as they needed to earn money to survive.
But many transport workers said they were unaware of ferry suspension.
Hilaluddin, in-charge of Mawa traffic police, said more than 400 vehicles, mostly carrying cargo, were waiting at Mawa terminal at 4pm.
He said there were some pick-up vans and cars as well.
Shimulia ferry terminal authorities said there were around 15,000 people and over 200 vehicles waiting there at 4pm.
Despite the daytime suspension, ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia route was normal and there were big crowds at Paturia terminal. From morning till noon, eight to 10 ferries left Daulatdia terminal carrying people and vehicles and each carried 300-400 passengers.
Akbar Hossain, who was waiting at Paturia terminal with his family members, said he was not aware of the ferry suspension. The Madhabilata ferry left Paturia with several hundred passengers at around 10am but he did not get a chance to board it.
Zillur Rahman, deputy general manager of BIWTA Aricha office, said three ferries were operating to transport ambulances, small private vehicles, and trucks carrying emergency goods.
"But the ferries were mostly crowded with hundreds of people and it was not possible to stop them."
Manikganj Additional Superintendent of Police Hafizur Rahman said intra-district buses were operating while people were coming to ferry terminals by motorcycles and cars.
"Speedboats and other boat services are closed to avoid any untoward situation. That is why there is more pressure on ferries," he added.
At least four ferries setting off from Shimulia terminal in Munshiganj's Louhajanj ran on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route. Shafiqul Islam, assistant general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) at Shimulia, said the ferries carried ambulances and people.
"With thousands of people waiting at the terminal, it is not possible to bar them from boarding ferries," he said.
Safayet Ahmed, BIWTC manager (commerce) at the terminal, said ferries were operated to transport ambulances carrying dead bodies, but homebound people also boarded those.