Bangladesh puts area in capital on lockdown after second coronavirus death

Community transmission suspected

Manzur H Maswood and Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 14:42, Mar 21,2020 | Updated: 00:35, Mar 22,2020


Authorities lock down a building and its adjacent area at North Tolarbagh of Darussalam in Dhaka after a resident of the building died of COVID-19 on Saturday. — Abdullah Apu

The authorities on Saturday locked down the Tolarbagh neighbourhood of Mirpur Darussalam in the capital hours after the second death from COVID-19 was confirmed from the area, with four new coronavirus cases identified on the day.

With the new cases, the number of infected people rose to 24 in Bangladesh, as fears have grown that the new death suggests community transmission.

The death of the man in his seventies at a private hospital prompted the authorities to put on lockdown some 40 buildings in the area that housed 672 families, officials said.

The man, aged around 73 and having comorbidity, died on Saturday at the nearby Delta Medical Hospital in Mirpur 1.

All the shops except pharmacies were shut down in Tolarbagh and the residents in the area were asked to stay at home.

The deceased or his family members had no foreign travel history, neighbours said.

Tolarbagh flat owners’ association president Subhashis Biswas said to New Age, ‘We had an emergency  meeting in the presence of IEDCR officials and the local police and decided on the lockdown of the entire area,’ said Subhashis.

He said that the elderly coronavirus patient was a retired madrassah teacher with no recent history of traveling abroad and none of his family members also returned from abroad recently.

This caused alarm among the locals that the fatal disease might have been spread in the community, he said.

Police were seen guarding the area and monitoring the entry into and exit from the houses were restricted.

Mirpur deputy commissioner of police Mustak Ahmed said that they were directed by the authorities to lock down the houses.

Additional deputy commissioner of police Mahmuda Afroz confirmed to New Age that the man was a COVID-19 patient and the locality was put on lockdown upon an instruction from the IEDCR.

An IEDCR official said that the COVID-19 patient who died on Saturday was staying at the house before being hospitalised on Friday.

The patient had been admitted to two hospitals in Kalyanpur before he was finally taken to Delta Medical Hospital.

The ICU he was in and the doctors and nurses of the Delta Medical Hospital were also quarantined.

When asked, IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Flora said, ‘We are doing contract tracing of the deceased patient and putting all of them in home quarantine.’

Additional deputy commissioner Mahmuda said that the patient was a regular mosque-goer and it was suspected that he might have spread the virus to others at the mosque.

With the continued entry of passengers into the country, the government also suspended flights with 10 countries, including the neighboring India, where nearly 200 people got infected with the novel coronavirus.

‘Another man died of COVID-19 in Bangladesh and the total deaths from the infection in the country are now two,’ said health minister Zahid Maleque at a press conference at the Directorate General of Health Services.

‘Besides, four new patients have been diagnosed with the disease, with the total number of infected reaching 24,’ he added.

The minister said that 50 people were now in institutional quarantine and around 14,000 in home quarantine countrywide while, he mentioned, about 10,000 people entered Bangladesh daily from various countries.

Since January 21, over six lakh people have entered country, according to the IEDCR.

Zahid said that that the government was preparing Sheikh Russell Gastronomy Institute and Sheikh Hasina Burn Institute in the capital as quarantine centres for the novel coronavirus patients.

The minister also confirmed that two locations in Mirpur and Uttara were selected for institutional quarantine.

The minister appeared at the press conference after an inter-ministerial meeting over the country’s coronavirus situation at the DGHS.

He disclosed that the meeting decided to bring some experts from China to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh.

‘The Chinese experts having the experience of work to tackle the coronavirus menace in Wuhan will train our doctors and help us in identifying the gaps in our preparation,’ the minister said.

He revealed that seven high-tech testing machines for the diagnosis of COVID-19 were procured and those would be set up in new locations.

‘As these machines need to be placed in sophisticated biosafety labs, so we need some time to install those,’ he added.

Zahid said that 400 more intensive care units would be set up soon as such facilities were needed for COVID-19 patients.

Bangladesh reported the country’s first death from coronavirus on March 18.

On March 8, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research announced for the first time that three COVID-19 patients were detected in Bangladesh.

The first three infected Bangladeshis have recovered and have been released from hospital. Now 19 patients are taking treatment for the infection, according to officials.

As the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing, cities and towns, including the capital, witnessed a thinner movement of people on Saturday.

Many people rushed to kitchen markets for supplies of necessities and to medicine stores for essential drugs. 

Though the government has claimed that the coronavirus infections are limited to those who have returned from different countries and their family members, the testing of community people for the virus is still not in place to know if the infection has spread to communities, officials said.

The COVID-19 outbreak has already wreaked a global havoc killing over 11,000 people and infecting some 2.5 lakh others globally.

The virus has spread to over 170 countries, forcing many of them to lock down cities and territories and suspending flights.

After suspending flights to and from European countries, Bangladesh on Thursday suspended flights to and from 10 countries, including India, Bahrain, KSA, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Bangladesh also locked down Shibchar upazila in Madaripur as many of the COVID-19 patients identified were from the area where many expatriates had returned from different countries.

The government has also closed educational institutions and requested people to avoid mass gatherings.

The New Age correspondent in Mymensingh reported that the Mymensingh Chamber of Commerce and Industries on Saturday set a new time table for the shops in the divisional city from 11:00am to 6:00pm while the district bus owners association said that no bus would leave Mymensingh for Dhaka after 7:00pm. 

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