The government on Saturday quarantined 312 Bangladeshis at hospitals in Dhaka on arrival from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province in China, amid multiple screening in the last twenty hours.
Upon their arrival on a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines on January 1, the health ministry officials at specially set up quarantine at the Hajj camp at Ashkona in Dhaka announced that none of them were contaminated or suspected of carrying the virus.
The officials, however, said eight of them were taken to Kurmitola Medical College Hospital and Combined Military Hospital as their fever levels were little higher than usual.
The health services director general Abul Kalam Azad told the reporters that of the 312 Bangladeshis, 297 were adults while 12 were children and three were infants and they were in quarantine for two weeks.
He also said that seven of the passengers were moved to Kurmitola General Hospital with their average 100 degree fever but none were found to have been infected during multiple screening tests.
Director general of Armed Forces Medical Services Major General physician Md Fashiur Rahman said another pregnant nurse with her husband and a kid was moved to the CMH for isolation.
Abul Kalam said they have engaged army personnel apart from the police to maintain strict law and order around the specially set up quarantine at the Hajj camp at Ashkona and were providing best services to the Bangladeshis who arrived from the Wuhan.
Most of the Bangladeshis were students and PhD researchers at different universities in the Hubei province in China where their provincial government launched multiple screening tests before allowing them to get on board the plane.
At least four Bangladeshis were not allowed to travel due to their sudden attack of fever at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at the last moment, a foreign ministry official told New Age.
The official said that 10 others who lived 400 kilometres away from Wuhan could not finally catch the flight while 20 more medical students were unwilling to return as they believed that the virus would not affect them.
The official said that at least six others could not manage their travel documents and had to stay behind.
Bangladesh embassy in China so far registered 5,760 Bangladeshis living in the country.
The national flag carrier, which left Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 6:00pm on Friday with three physicians, a nurse and required medical equipment, returned to Dhaka at 11:50am on Saturday after 10-hour delay in China due to screening tests and other formalities.
Eight air-conditioned buses and two truck of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, which were prepared for them since 11:00pm on Friday to use them by 2:00am as scheduled earlier, finally carried them from flight BG 7002 to the Hajj camp, which is kept isolated and guarded by military personnel.
The passengers were in masks and were also exhausted though kept talking over their phones while few others showed the thump-up or were waving while entering the quarantine.
After nearly 20-hour journey, infants and children were seen snuggling up to their mothers.
Huazhong Agricultural University research fellow Hafizur Rahman was trying to get a glance of his researcher wife Nur Taj Khatun and their six-month-old baby Nuhaifa Rahman standing next to the gate of the quarantine where they were taken.
He told New Age that he had arrived in Bangladesh on January 17 on vacation while his family was still in Wuhan.
‘When I came the virus did not spread in such a massive scale. It was only after few days that it quickly turned into an outbreak…last few weeks I spent sleepless nights,’ said Hafizur.
‘I appreciate the health services to keep my family isolated for two weeks here before allowing them to go home,’ He added.
Nasima Begum along with her husband Sharif Zaman was seen waiting in front of the Hajj camp for his software engineering student son Sadman Sharif.
She said, ‘I used to pray every moment for my son and talk to him. He was not allowed to get out of his dormitory in China and used to get meals supplied by their university regularly. But now, I feel a little relaxed.’
‘I am waiting to give some garments to my son as he came with his laptop only,’ she added.
The necessary immigration procedures were all arranged at hajj camp where they were each given a floor mat, pillow, blanket and toiletries for their stay for the next two weeks or more.
A health service personnel Kalam said, ‘If anyone is found to have come down with fever, we are prepared to ensure his or her Isolation,’ said.
The government on Friday also instituted a multi-sectorial quarantine management committee headed by the health services division additional secretary Habidur Rahman Khan.
Seeing the otherwise empty hajj camp getting cramped with Bangladeshis from China, locals expressed their concerns over whether virus could spread from this premises.
‘We are little worried as this area is densely populated,’ said Yasim Akhter who was seen standing in front of the hajj camp in the afternoon.
An intelligence official said they have already informed their colleagues in the area so that none could spread rumours relating to the quarantine.
Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said they continued with their thermal screenings at the airport since the passengers from China arrived.
About 400-500 passengers arrive Bangladesh from China every day.
As of Friday, the IEDCR said that they so far screened 4,260 passengers who arrived home from China in recently after the coronavirus spread began in that country.
Media report said that China faced deepening isolation over its coronavirus epidemic on Saturday as the death toll soared to 259, with the United States and Australia leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans.
The IEDCR 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.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs