Government sends plane today to fly back citizens

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury and Manzur H Maswood | Updated at 12:13am on January 31, 2020

The government will send an aircraft of Biman Bangladesh Airlines for evacuating over 340 Bangladesh citizens now stranded in Wuhan, already in lockdown enforced by the Chinese authorities due to outbreak of deadly coronavirus.

‘We are making preparations to send an aircraft,’ foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told New Age on Thursday evening.

A wide-body aircraft would leave Dhaka on Friday evening for Wuhan as the Chinese aviation authorities allotted a slot to operate a special flight of Bangladesh Airlines flight to and from a local airport to evacuate Bangladesh citizens, a senior government official said.

Some 341 Bangladesh citizens expressed their intent for returning home under special arrangements, said the official, adding that most of them are from Wuhan region.

Meanwhile, a Bangladeshi passenger who landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Wednesday night with possible coronavirus symptoms was taken to Kurmitola General Hospital on Thursday.

‘The passenger was tested negative for coronavirus,’ said a senior official of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.

‘He is under observation,’ said the official.

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Thursday that many Bangladeshi citizens informed the Bangladesh embassy in Beijing that they would not return home to avoid any possibility of transmitting the disease in the country after their return, according to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

The Chinese authorities informed Bangladesh that they would bear all expenses of treatment if any foreigner is affected by the virus, he added.

The deadly coronavirus that broken out in China has already killed 170 people.

Health minister Zahid Maleque said on Thursday that the Bangladesh government was ‘fully prepared’ to tackle coronavirus.

‘There is nothing to get panicked yet,’ he said while speaking at a meeting at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Zahid said that no passengers coming from China was detected with coronavirus yet.

‘All the passengers are being screened whenever they are arriving,’ he said.

An isolation unit at the nearby Kurmitola General Hospital had been opened for any passengers arriving with possible symptoms of coronavirus, he said.

About 400-500 passengers arrive Bangladesh from China every day.

IEDCR on Wednesday night said that it so far screened 3,348 passengers who came to Bangladesh from China in recent days after the coronavirus spread in the country.

But no coronavirus patients were found so far, it said.

The government on Tuesday ordered heightened measures at all ports and public hospitals to check the ‘transportation and transmission of coronavirus’.

Directorate General of Health Services 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 had 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.

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.