Omicron: Govt thinking ahead but no plans yet on borders, lockdown

The government is preparing to tackle the Omicron variant if or when it enters Bangladesh but has no plans to close the borders or impose a lockdown.

Necessary instructions have been issued over the new coronavirus variant, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told the media on Sunday.

All possible precautionary measures have been taken, he said, adding that the pandemic situation is currently not dire enough to seal the borders or lock down the country.

The screening process at all entry points has been intensified and the health authorities have also beefed up quarantine measures, the minister said.

All incoming passengers from southern Africa and other countries affected by the Omicron variant must carry a Covid-19 negative certificate and remain institutionally quarantined for 14 days, Maleque said.

The Covid-19 testing capacity of Dhaka airport has also been increased, he informed the media.

Asked about the treatment of people testing positive for the Omicron variant, the minister said hospitals at all levels have been instructed to prepare to treat such patients.

More than 8,000 new nurses and 4,000 new doctors have been appointed to handle any added pressure of patients, he added.

He also urged expatriates living in different countries, especially African ones, not to return to Bangladesh at the moment.

There are enough Covid-19 vaccine doses in stock and the government will soon start administering booster shots to the elderly, Malque said.

Omicron is the new coronavirus variant first detected in the African country recently.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said the Omicron variant has so far been detected in 38 countries, up from 23 just two days ago, with early data suggesting the variant is more contagious than Delta.

The WHO has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.

The new variant poses a major challenge to ending the pandemic.

Rising Delta cases had already forced European governments to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, curfews or lockdowns, leaving businesses fearing another grim spell.

Called B.1.1.529, Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO.

Our Gazipur Correspondent Raihanul Islam Akand has contributed to this report

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