Indian transporters walk freely in the land port, many without following the rules on social distancing or wearing masks.
The authorities have been strict about keeping the port closed for travellers from India. Only Bangladeshis with special permission can get through the port, but need to go into 14-day institutional quarantine.
Shahidul Islam, a Bangladesh truck driver, said the authorities are spraying disinfectants on the trucks and running medical check-ups on the transporters when the vehicles enter the port.
“Masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) were mandatory once. We don’t use them now as no one tells us anything.”
The government deployed Border Guard Bangladesh to stop the Indian truckers from roaming freely in and around the port in the beginning of June.
From the Petrapole side in India, 350 to 450 trucks enter Benapole daily while around 300 trucks take goods from Bangladesh to India.
To transport the goods around Bangladesh, more than 1,500 trucks visit the port daily, and most of them flout the pandemic health rules.
These factors together have directly put at risk the health of around 15,000 people at the port, including employees of government and private organisations and workers handling the goods.
Aminur Rahman, a trader who exports and imports goods through the port, said it takes at least one week to release the goods when a truck arrives from India.
“The drivers hang around at the tea stalls and markets outside the port. Now it has come under control following the deployment of BGB.
“But the drivers and their assistants are still mingling with the Bangladeshis inside the port. So the risks of the virus spreading remain,” said Aminur.
“The port is alert to ensure health rules.”
The Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been dominant in India amid a deadly second wave of infection, is now dominant among COVID-19 cases in parts of Bangladesh as well.