Bangladesh on high alert over coronavirus fear

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 11:22pm on January 29, 2020


A mother adjust her son's protective mask to help stop the spread of a deadly coronavirus at the Beijing railway station in Beijing on Monday. — AFP photo

The health ministry has 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.

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

‘The prime minister has asked all concerned to remain alert and make sure that there were arrangements for quarantine at all ports for the screening of the passengers coming from China or Hong Kong,’ cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told a press briefing.

The Chinese authorities have already sealed Wuhan in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak there, he added.

The Directorate General of Health Services earlier on Monday morning 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.

DGHS director general Abul Kalam Azad in a video conference with the civil surgeons and medical college hospital directors issued the directives.

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.

The Bangladesh embassy in Beijing has also opened a hotline number, +86 178-0111-6005, for round the clock in case of any emergencies.

Meanwhile, a Chinese national with coronavirus symptoms has been hospitalised in the capital on Monday.

Officials, however, said that they were yet to collect the samples from the patient who came to Bangladesh from China after January 18.

‘We’ve heard about the patient, but we don’t want to comment on it as we are yet to collect the samples from the patient,’ IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Flora told New Age on Monday evening.

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.

She said that no infected patient was identified till Monday morning.

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.

The government has stepped up its efforts to detect and prevent the strain of coronavirus, which causes a type of pneumonia, and has spread across China recently.

The government on Monday also expressed its intent to the Chinese authorities to bring back home the willing Bangladeshi expatriates from the Chinese areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told New Age on the day, ‘We are in touch with the Chinese authorities on bringing back Bangladesh citizens willing to come back home.’

The embassy of Bangladesh in Beijing is in close contact with the Chinese foreign ministry and Bangladesh citizens in different parts of that country in general and Wuhan province in particular, he said.

The government might evacuate willing Bangladesh citizens by aircrafts, if necessary, subject to the clearance from the Chinese authorities, he said.

The government is also in touch with the neighbouring countries willing to bring back their people home, the foreign secretary went on.

There are about 500 Bangladeshi students living in Wuhan of China.

The government ‘has no plan for imposing a travel ban’ to and from China, the foreign secretary added.

At least 80 people died of the coronavirus infection and some 2,744 affected cases were confirmed in mainland China till Monday evening, according to the Global Times of China.