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Pandemic puts a damper on Eid holidaymaking in Bangladesh

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Jesmine Ara Begum, an executive officer of a private insurance company, became apprehensive about going home after hearing about the community transmission of COVID-19 at her village in Cumilla.
She eventually decided not to leave Dhaka during the Eid-ul-Azha holidays, the second largest religious festival for Muslims in Bangladesh.
Rampaging through Bangladesh at an alarming rate, the novel coronavirus epidemic has forced thousands of Eid-holidaymakers like Jesmine to ditch plans to leave Dhaka for their home towns and villages in a bid to keep their loved ones safe.
“I can’t travel to my village due to the coronavirus outbreak. My child will desperately miss his grandmother and aunts,” a saddened Begum, who celebrates Eid with her family every year, told bdnews24.com on Wednesday.
“Community transmission of COVID-19 has begun over the last one month. The number of coronavirus patients is also increasing at an alarming rate in our village. That scares me the most,” she added.
In addition to the fear of coronavirus infection, economic hardship and flooding in large parts of Bangladesh have added to people’s woes this Eid.
Meanwhile, the government has asked employees and apparel workers not to leave their places of work during the Eid holidays.
The capital's streets may not take on a deserted look this Eid because of these reasons, city-dwellers said, as bus and launch terminals and railway stations failed to draw the usual glut of holidaymakers this year.
Rampura resident Abdul Ali Mohaimen, who has cancelled his plans to visit his village in Gaibandha, said, “The flood situation has deteriorated further along with the coronavirus outbreak. Most of the people in Gaibandha are affected by floods. I have decided not to take my daughters to my village right now as the water levels on the rivers continued to surge.”
Mohaimen is also worried about water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, skin disorders, eye inflammation and bronchitis that have already affected thousands of people in the low-lying areas of Bangladesh. He also highlighted a lack of adequate treatment facilities in the rural areas.
In Bangladesh, Eid-ul-Azha will be observed on Aug 1 this year. The Eid holidays will begin on Friday. But no crowds of passengers were seen in Kamalapur Railway Station, Gabtoli, Mohakhali and Sayedabad bus terminals on Wednesday.
Rafiq Mia, an employee of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital (BSMMU), said he took an optional leave last year for an extended Eid holiday to visit his home in Patuakhali. But the reality is different now as the pandemic has left a financial scar in his life.
“Many of my friends are facing the same financial issues,” Rafiq added.
There is no passenger pressure at railway stations or launch terminals to get the much sought-after advance tickets like other years ahead of Eid, the authorities said.
Advance tickets, mostly controlled by the black marketeers, have become readily available as people can’t afford to go home now. Many workers are yet to get their salaries and Eid allowances, said Nipphamari-resident Rezaul Karim, who works as a salesman at Bashundhara City shopping mall in Dhaka.
“Train tickets are available every day as the number of passengers has dropped sharply,” railway employee Hannan Masud said.
The pandemic has forced many low-wage earners to leave Dhaka in June and July, he added.
“Around 300,000 people have already left Dhaka since the pandemic broke out in Bangladesh. They started to leave Dhaka during the lockdown which was designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many left the city before Eid-ul-Fitr, most of whom are unlikely return to Dhaka any time soon.”

Source: bdnews24.com

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