PM Hasina directs everyone to avoid mass gatherings
With three confirmed diagnoses of Covid-19 infection in Bangladesh, the government is now putting preventive measures in place to tackle the spread of the deadly coronavirus strain that has shaken the world.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed everyone to avoid mass gatherings as a preventive measure.
Md Asadul Islam, secretary of the Health Services Division under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, disclosed the information during a press briefing on Monday, following the weekly cabinet meeting at Bangladesh Secretariat.
Earlier on Sunday, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), the organization primarily in charge of dealing with coronavirus cases in Bangladesh, confirmed that three individuals had been diagnosed positive with Covid-19 infection in the country.
“The authorities have also identified 40 people who came in close contact with the infected patients. They have been quarantined for two weeks,” Asad said.
“People should not panic, as the situation in Bangladesh has yet to reach a level of concern,” he added.
Two of the three Covid-19 patients recently returned from Italy, according to the IEDCR.
Tackling Covid-19 infection
* Three committees formed to monitor overall situation
* Hospitals prepared to treat patients
* Doctors, nurses being trained
* No need for schools, colleges to be shut down yet
* New screening machines imported for international airports
* Bangladeshis abroad requested not to visit home
* Bangladesh to get $100mn fund to combat Covid-19 from WHO, World Bank
When asked how the two infected Italy returnees passed through the thermal scanner at the airport, Asad said: “Fever cannot be measured until the coronavirus becomes active in human body. It can become noticeable anytime within two weeks of infection. The scanner could not detect them as the virus was still not active when they arrived in Bangladesh.”
He further said every person has to fill up a form when entering Bangladesh through the airports. “We follow up and track these people, and sometimes they contact us if they have fever.”
Meanwhile, the government has formed three different kinds of committees – central, division-level and district-level – to monitor the situation all over the country, Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque said on Monday.
Speaking at a press briefing at the ministry after a meeting of the central committee, the health minister said: “We have prepared 400 beds in different hospitals in each divisional city, 100 beds in district-level and 50 beds in upazila-level healthcare facilities to take care of coronavirus-infected patients.
“Doctors and nurses are also being trained [on the Covid-19 treatment], and necessary kits such as masks, hand wash and sterilizers are also being provided by the government,” he added.
Covid-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, a group of viruses that cause respiratory tract infections among humans. The Covid-19 infection broke out at Wuhan city in China’s Hubei province in late December last year, and so far has spread to 110 countries and territories, including Bangladesh.
As of 9:30pm on Monday, more than 111,000 people have been infected with the virus, of whom 3,888 patients have died, while more than 62,700 patients have made recovery, according to worldometers.
‘No need for schools to be shut down yet’
About shutting down educational institutions in face of potential Covid-19 outbreak in the country, Health Services Secretary Asadul Islam said it was not necessary yet.
Speaking at Monday's press briefing, he said educational institutions would not be closed right now, but the authorities there would have to ensure minimizing public gatherings, as per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directive.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the school authorities had been requested to ensure supply of hand wash and sanitizers for the students.
Earlier on Sunday, Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury said the Ministry of Education would decide whether to shut the educational institutions down or not, as per the instructions from the Health Ministry, UNB reported.
“Our education minister is in close contact with the Health Ministry in this regard,” he added.
Screenings to be tightened
Screening of inbound passengers at all airports and seaports in the country will be tightened, the health minister said.
The government has already imported six new screening machines to detect high temperature. Of them, two have been already installed at Dhaka airport, and the rest will be installed at Sylhet airport and Chittagong airport and seaport, he added.
“We also discourage organizing religious or social programs at the moment,” the health minister said. “We have already sent directives to the deputy commissioners not to allow such events.”
The government has already restricted the sale of tickets of the upcoming T20I cricket match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
He requested everyone not to spread out any kind of rumours as it is national crisis.
Bangladeshis abroad requested not to visit home
The government has requested around 10 million Bangladeshi citizens who live in different countries not to visit the country for now.
The Bangladesh missions around the world are encouraging the Bangladesh citizens to stay in their respective countries of residence. Those who have arrived from abroad should self-quarantine even if they have no fever.
"We are frequently requesting the expatriates to stay in their countries of residence, but we cannot force them [not to come],” Asadul Islam said at the press briefing.
The Health Ministry has advised the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strictly control the visa on arrival for people coming from countries that are reported to be highly affected by the virus.
Several issues have to be considered to fully stop the visa on arrival service. The government, however, has already suspended it for China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
The government will also launch a nationwide campaign in a few days to raise awareness about Covid-19, and is working to control the hike of prices of masks, hand wash and sanitizers.
“WHO the World Bank will provide $100 million to Bangladesh to combat the [coronavirus] crisis. But we need more funds,” Asad said.
He requested the corporate entities to donate funds to help the government.