On the ground floor wall of the Shyamoli Cinema Hall Market, a written signboard caught Prothom Alo correspondents' attention. It says ‘for availing the Covid Card, follow the direction’.
It was Sunday morning. Correspondents followed the direction and finally found a stationery shop where six employees were assisting people in online registration for COVID-19 inoculation. They were charging Tk50 for each successful registration.
In exchange for Tk100 or less as a fee, many computer and internet service providers in Dhaka have come forward to assisting people who faced technical problems in the registration.
The government was facilitating people aged above 40 in online registration for the COVID-19 inoculation. Since Thursday on-the-spot registration for vaccination has been stopped, leaving no alternative to the online registration.
This move turns to troublesome for the seniors as well as the poor people who have no computer literacy or internet access.
For example, there are at least 10 stationary shops in the Shyamoli Cinema Hall market from where people eligible for vaccination are availing registration card. Some health facilities around the College Gate and Shyamloi localities are designated for the COVID-19 inoculation.
The shop attendants said that they were providing online registration assistance from the beginning of the vaccination. They face interruption when the server of the surokkha website downs. Normally, the whole process of registration takes only five minutes, they said.
Shop attendant at MA International stationary shop in Shyamoli Cinema Hall Market, Shabib Noor said that daily 60 people on average visit the shop for the registration.
The Nilkhet-based stationary shops get ready too to assist in the registration. However, attendants at around 21 shops there said very few people are taking their assistance.
Adabar resident Khorshed Alam, 50, recently availed his vaccination card with assistance from a stationery shop. He has a smartphone. But he doesn’t know how to browse the surokkha website in the gadget. On Wednesday, he availed his vaccination card expending Tk 80 and got a jab from Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital. The car driver said that he had to buy the registration service from a stationery shop as on-the-spot registration was found closed.
On Sunday, these correspondents talked to 14 eligible people in Dhaka and they all had said that they were interested to be vaccinated. Of them, 12 didn’t have the internet and smartphone and 13 said they had no idea about the online registration.
Mohammadpur-based security guard Abdul Matin, 58, was among the interviewees. He asked for an offline registration facility for the people like him.
Asim Kumar Nath, director at the Mugda Medical College and Hospital, explained the reason for closing the spot registration process. He said that the burden of offline registration often hampers the vaccination of the people registered online.
The hospital officials said that they could register 20,000 people maximum for a single day vaccination. On Sunday, the hospital witnessed vaccine seekers full of its capacity. They requested the health directorate to increase the daily supply of the vaccines.
The government launched mass vaccination on 7 February. Although the campaign is gaining momentum, still many poor are lagged in the registration process.
Md Anwar, 41, a roadside vendor of green coconut, was among the people. In case the concerned authorities do not ease the registration process, he would not get the vaccines, he said.
*This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online edition, and has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman