Bangladesh bans travellers’ entry from Europe

Visa-on-arrival suspended, 2 more coronavirus patients identified, 59 quarantined in Gazipur, 142 in home quarantine

Manzur H Maswood and Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 22:12, Mar 14,2020 | Updated: 22:30, Mar 15,2020


Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, health minister Zahid Maleque and state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam attend a press briefing at state guesthouse Padma in Dhaka on Saturday night.-- New Age photo

Bangladesh on Saturday imposed a ban on all travellers’ entry into the country from the European countries except England for two weeks as two more Bangladeshis were identified with Covid-19.

It also suspended visa-on-arrival facilities for all countries for two weeks.

‘All travellers from all European countries except England will remain suspended for two weeks with effect from 12:01am Monday,’ said foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

Speaking at a press conference at state guesthouse Padma, he said the government will observe the global situation on coronavirus for two weeks to take further decision.

The restrictions came two days after the World Health Organisation characterised the coronavirus situation a global pandemic.

Momen also said that the government has also decided to suspend flights to and from the countries which already imposed a ban on travellers from Bangladesh including India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Bangladeshi nationals would also face the ban.

Foreign trade and international courier service would continue, he said. 

At the press conference, health minister Zahid Maleque further said that two more Bangladeshis, one from Italy and another from Germany, were identified with the Covid-19 disease while in quarantine.

They were taken to hospital, he said.

Earlier in the day, 59 Bangladeshis, who came from Italy in two flights, were quarantined in a house in Gazipur.

Another 142 Bangladeshis, who arrived from Italy in the morning, were sent to home quarantine after a day-long indecision on whether they would be quarantined at or released from the Hajj camp near the Dhaka airport.  

The 59 Bangladeshis were taken to Gazipur after  they landed at the Dhaka airport in two separate flights — 25 in a Qatar Airlines and 34 in Emirates Airlines — from Italy.

Earlier, 142 Bangla deshis were taken to the Hajj camp at Ashkona in the capital from the airport after they landed in the morning.

They were later screened at the Hajj camp, where 312 Bangladeshis, who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the coronavirus, were also quarantined for 14 days last month.

‘They [142 Bangladeshis] are found in good health. So, we have decided to release them on condition of staying under home quarantine,’ Health Services director general Abul Kalam Azad told reporters in the evening.

Health minister Zahid Maleque earlier in the day said that the Italy returnees would be put on mandatory quarantine.  ‘Anyone coming from the affected countries will be put on quarantine and anyone violating the guideline may face fine and jail sentence,’ he said while speaking at a press conference at the Health Services in the afternoon. 

But the returnees started protesting against the decision in the afternoon. An angry protester was seen shouting at a police officer who was on duty at the camp, ‘We are not coronavirus patients, please let us go.’

Some Italy returnees alleged that the government did not provide foods after they return.

Italy returnees protest at the government decision to put them in quarantine at Ashkona Hajj Camp near Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Saturday. — Sony Ramany

In the evening, army personnel were deployed at the camp to control the access of people into the Ashkona Hajj camp and to avoid any untoward incidents to ensure the safety of the returnees, said an ISPR release. Health Services director general Abul Kalam Azad said that another 155 Bangladeshis would return from Italy on Sunday.

‘They would be taken to the Hajj camp for health check-ups and for further decision about them, he said.  At about 9:30pm, Abul Kalam Azad told reporters that they decided to release the 142 returnees but they must stay on home quarantine for 14 days and travel home in private vehicles.

Bangladesh government on March 8 said that for the first time three people were found infected with the new coronavirus that already spread to over 136 countries killing nearly 5,600 people and infecting over 1.4 lakh, mostly in China.

Over one crore Bangladeshis live abroad and since January 21, the day the IEDCR started screening passengers at the ports of entry, nearly 6 lakh people entered Bangladesh.

Though the government urging people to go under home quarantine for 14 days, cconcerns grow over government’s inadequate preparedness to tackle the spread of coronavirus as there was hardly any monitoring to ensure that people remained on home quarantine.

IEDCR director Meerjady said on Sunday that they have no record of how many people are staying on home quarantine across Bangladesh.

‘We will start keeping a record of people placed on home quarantine,’ she said at the press conference in reply to a question.

Meanwhile, the 23 Bangladeshi nationals, quarantined in the suburbs of the Indian capital for 14 days, arrived home on Saturday afternoon.

A flight of Indigo Airlines carrying them landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 3:00pm.

The returnees were later handed over to their family members, said a foreign ministry release. Earlier, Bangladesh brought back 312 Bangladeshis from Wuhan on February 1 and released in good health after 14-day quarantine at the Hajj camp.

Meanwhile, the latest diagnosis result of the third Covid-19 patient proved negative.

‘One more test would be done and if the result proves negative, according to World Health Organisation protocol, it would mean there is no virus in his body,’ Meerjady said.

The IEDCR chief also requested all to follow proper hand washing technique at every educational institution and said, ‘The situation is not such that schools should be closed down.’

The government, in a meeting on Saturday, discussed situation relating to educational institutions and there was no decision so far in this regard, Momen said.

In another development, a group of students of Dhaka University started sit-in in front of Raju Memorial, demanding government measures to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Another group of students from different departments of the university also collected signatures of students demanding closure of the university.

Dhaka Railway Station falls almost deserted amid fears of coronavirus outbreak. This photo was taken on Saturday. — New Age photo

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email