Thousands of people began to stream out of the capital on Friday ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr posing serious risks of further spread of COVID-19 as the police withdrew all checkpoints at the exit points of the capital and on different highways.

Making a sudden U-turn on their previous decision to restrict the movement of homegoers ahead of Eid the police announced that private cars could run on highways.

Ferry services at Shimulia-Kathalbari and Paturia-Daulatdia routes also resumed on Friday morning when people flooded into the ferries to cross the River Padma and reach their destinations mostly in the country’s southern region.

Additional secretary of health ministry Habibur Rahman Khan told New Age  that police did not consult with them before implementing the decision.

Habibur, also head of the media cell on COVID-19, said that he feared this home-bound rush would further deteriorate the situation and spread more infections among the people during the Eid holidays.

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The latest move was a U-turn on the previous position of the administration and the police that none would be allowed to leave the capital to celebrate Eid as the government had already extended the general holiday till May 30 asking people to stay at home to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

When contacted, senior police officials refused to explain the reason behind the sudden change of decision which was disseminated among the field-level officials without any public announcement.

They said that it was a decision made by the higher authorities.

RAB director general Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun, however, said that people coiuld now travel to their villages to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr by their private vehicles, but no public transports would be allowed on the streets.

The decision was taken analysing the entire situation, he said in a briefing on Friday.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner (in-charge) for traffic Abdur Razzak said they had withdrawn all checkpoints on the exit routes of Dhaka from early Friday following the instruction from high-ups, in an apparent move to allow people to leave Dhaka during Eid holidays amid countrywide restriction on public movement to thwart the coronavirus spread.

He said that people could now travel to their destinations in ‘private vehicles’ during the Eid holidays and police will continue to provide usual securities.

Earlier on Tuesday, police chief Benazir Ahmed had declared that they would not allow people to leave the capital.

Public health experts feared that homebound rush will worsen the already deteriorating COVID-19 situation.

The Cabinet Division in a circular on May 14 had banned public movement from one district to another and even from one upazila to another during the general holiday that began on March 26, which was extended in phases to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The government ban on movement of all modes of public transports remained in force till May 30.

Meanwhile, thousands flooded out of the city in a mad homeward rush after the latest decision.

People were seen hiring cars, microbuses, covered vans, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, and rickshaws at Gabtali on Friday to reach the ferry terminal at Paturia of Manikganj where they would cross river and go their villages.

No social distancing and health directives were maintained in these vehicles as those were cramped with passengers.

Ferries were also alarmingly overcrowded.

New Age Munshiganj correspondent reported that despite the fact that there were not enough vehicles, thousands of people simply walked to the Shimulia ferry terminal and waited there for hours for ferries to cross the river.

Hundreds of private cars rushed to Paturia ferry terminal in the afternoon after the check posts were withdrawn.

The government formed national technical committee for COVID-19 head Professor Mohammad Shahidullah said that they were alarmed with this homebound rush and fear that it might worsen the situation.

He said that they suggested to the government not to allow such mass movement.

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