The number of passport-holding passengers traveling to and from India via the land port of Benapole has declined dramatically for a variety of reasons, including strict precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus. .
Bangladeshi passengers said an alarming spike in Covid cases in the neighboring country, twice the Covid test for passengers and hassle caused by brokers are the main reasons the number of travelers is declining.
Those who have to travel to India for medical, professional and educational purposes are in great pain, they said.
According to port authorities, around 3,000 passengers passed through the land port per day on average last week, but the number of passengers with passports has fallen to 1,000 during the current week.
On January 1, 375 people traveled to India while 709 returned from the country and on January 2 some people left the country through the port while 864 people returned.
On January 3, the number of passengers to India was 491 while the number of returnees was 611 and on January 4, some 442 people traveled to India and 639 returned. On January 5, the number of passengers to India was 481 while the number of returnees was 597.
Port sources said some 18 lakh passengers travel to and from India for different purposes each year.
On March 13, 2020, India imposed travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it authorized domestic flights from May 2020 and the entry of foreigners excluding tourists from October.
Abdul Jalil, deputy director (traffic) of the port of Benapole, said: “The number of passengers traveling to and from India and Bangladesh has decreased significantly. From January 1 to 5, some 5,687 people traveled between the two countries.
Alarmed by the increase in Omicron cases, the Indian federal government warned states two weeks ago that “the variant is three times more transmissible than the delta” and called on them to take action to curb its spread.
Shortly after the guideline was released, state after state announced restrictions to prevent any massive outbreaks of the Omicron strain.
On January 5, India reported its first known death of Omicron in the northwestern city of Udaipur.
The government of Bangladesh has also imposed some restrictions on the land port of Benapole, including increased control.
In addition, passengers with passports over 12 years of age must undergo rapid antigen testing and no passengers, except those with medical and business visas, are allowed to travel to India.
Meanwhile, four returnees to India have tested positive for Covid-19 and are currently undergoing treatment at Jashore Medical College Hospital.
Relevant senior officials from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and health workers have also visited the port recently and new guidance has also been given for those returning from India.
Bangladeshi passport holder Aroti Debnath said: “I applied for an Indian visa for road travel, but they approved a visa for air travel. The price of a plane ticket has tripled. More worryingly, the tickets are found a week after booking. It is now difficult for ordinary passengers to travel to India for urgent reasons. “
She also suggested improving services in the country’s health sector so that people can seek treatment at home.
Mr Shamim, a businessman, said: “I often travel to India for business purposes, but this is no longer possible due to the restrictions which hamper the activity.
Subhankar Kumar Mandal, chief medical officer at the Benapole immigration checkpoint, said: “Rapid antigen tests are being carried out along the border. In the past 15 days, samples from 64 people have been collected for testing and four of them have tested positive for the virus. “