Govt boosts measures to prevent coronavirus 

No plan to slap travel ban to and from China: minister  

Mustafizur Rahman and Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:31, Jan 29,2020


A physician conducts medical check-up of passengers who landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Sourav Lasker

The government on Tuesday ordered heightened measures at all ports and public hospitals to check the ‘transportation and transmission of coronavirus’ after its recent outbreak in China as there was no medicine yet to cure the disease.

The order came at an inter-ministerial meeting on the preparedness against the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan province of China, said officials, adding that Bangladesh was not going to impose any ban on travel to and from China at the moment.

Local authorities were asked to enhance precautions in the areas where Chinese citizens were staying, health minister Zahid Maleque said after presiding over the meeting at the Secretariat.

‘All deputy commissioners and superintendents of police across the country have been alerted against the disease so that they inform us instantly whenever they came to know about any infected person,’ he told a press briefing after the meeting

The coronavirus-infected persons carry symptoms like fever, sneezing, coughing and breathing difficulties while the disease spreads from fishes and animals, including bat and rat, he said.  

‘We have already prepared a protocol to manage the coronavirus-infected patients in keeping with the interim guidance of the WHO [World Health Organisation],’ said the minister, adding that there was neither any medicine to treat the infection nor any vaccine to prevent it.

He said that isolation was the first precaution as the disease spread very fast.

‘No one has been diagnosed with coronavirus in our country. A Chinese citizen was admitted to a hospital in the capital with fever, but he is now doing well,’ said the health minister.

Zahid said that over 100 persons had already died of coronavirus infection in China where 3,000 more people were detected positive while 5,000 more were suspected to be infected with the disease in the East Asian country after its outbreak last week.

Replying to a question, he said that Bangladesh at the moment did not have any plan to impose travel ban to and from China, but the government would request all not to travel to the country without emergency.

‘I mean no one should visit the country for tourism now,’ he said.

Officials from the home ministry, the foreign ministry and the agencies concerned, among others, attended the meeting at the health ministry. 

‘More than 300 students from Bangladesh are in Wuhan from where no one is now allowed to come out. Wuhan is locked up. Those willing to return home will have to wait until February 6 as the situation will remain under observation for at least 14 days,’ said a foreign ministry official, who attended the meeting.

DGHS director general Abul Kalam Azad said that the civil aviation authority was asked to ensure the facilities for ensuring screening and quarantine rooms at all airports.

The health ministry has already started preparations for treating returnees infected with coronavirus at restricted health facilities in the capital as well as at the district-level general hospitals, government officials said.

A home ministry official confirmed that 7,570 people from Bangladesh travelled to China and 2,308 came to Bangladesh from China in last 15 days through the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.

After the weekly cabinet meeting at the Secretariat, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday asked all concerned to ensure that everyone coming from China or Hong Kong was properly screened.  

The Directorate General of Drug Administration in a meeting on Tuesday issued a directive to increase production and import of face masks and hand sanitizers.

It also asked the pharmaceutical companies to produce and market antiviral medicines with utmost priority, said a DGDA release.

The producers and importers were asked to report to the DGDA about the present stocks of such products and also to market those products urgently.

The DGDA also decided to write to the customs and the land-, sea- and airports to ease the import process for the products.

The Directorate General of Health Services earlier on Monday instructed the civil surgeons and the medical college hospital directors to open a five-bed isolation unit at all district general hospitals and medical college hospitals for providing treatment to suspected coronavirus patients.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, the disease-monitoring arm of the government, requested people to call its hotlines or nearby hospitals if symptoms of coronavirus—pneumonia, cold, sneezing, coughing and fever—have been found in any patients returning from abroad.

The IEDCR hotlines are: 01937000011, 01937110011, 01927711784, and 01927711785.

Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room in-charge in Dhaka Ayesha Akther said that the regular screening of passengers at the air-, land- and seaports were going on.

A registry of incoming travellers has also been opened to keep their records as the symptoms of the coronavirus infection might appear even after two weeks, she added.

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