200,000 incoming travellers undergo coronavirus screening

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No case of infection found in Bangladesh

Amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in mainland China spreading across the world, Bangladesh has so far screened over 200,000 incoming passengers at land, sea, and airports across the country.

However, none of them were found infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Since January 21, a total of 204,820 international travelers were screened at entry points in Bangladesh, reveals a report based on data compilation by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) in Dhaka.

As part of contingency measures, the authorities in Bangladesh are medically screening all passengers at the ports and those with suspected coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, sneezing and cough, are being tested by the IEDCR since Feb 7.

However,  no positive cases of infection with coronavirus have been detected in Bangladesh, IEDCR Director Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora said yesterday.

Meanwhile, all 312 Bangladeshi nationals, who were brought back from Wuhan, China, and had been kept under observation at Ashkona Hajj camp and Combined Military Hospital (CMH), were released on February 15 after a 14-day quarantine.

“All of them are safe,” said Prof Flora.

They have been advised to limit their travel and movements over the 10 days after their release from quarantine and were further asked to report their health status and maintain regular contact with IEDCR.

“If anybody returns from China, it does not necessarily mean they are infected with coronavirus. Therefore, isolation or quarantine will not be required for all,” said the IEDCR director.

The IEDCR is isolating only those returnees from China and Singapore who may have manifestations of fever, sneezing or coughing, and examining their samples and taking measures for their treatment. The rest of the people have been asked to remain on self-managed quarantine at home, she said.

According to reports, at least five Bangladeshi nationals have been infected with coronavirus in Singapore and one of them is undergoing treatment at an Intensive Care Unit. All five, diagnosed with COVID-19, have been put on quarantine. 

In a dramatic turn of events, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on February 1 said that the Bangladesh government had decided to suspend issuing visas on-arrival to Chinese nationals for a month as part of a contingency measure against the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

On the same day, he said: “They [Chinese] will have to obtain a Bangladesh visa from our consulates in China. In order to get a visa, they will have to produce a medical certificate stating that they don’t have any illness. This is a temporary move.” 

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in China was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

Although researchers quickly identified and sequenced the virus, the weak global pandemic preparedness system has led to rising numbers of people getting infected with the virus worldwide.

Bangladesh, China exchange medical supplies

Bangladesh yesterday handed over medical supplies and logistics to Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming as a goodwill gesture from Bangladesh to China.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen handed over the consignment that includes one million hand gloves, five lakh facemasks, 1.5 lakh caps, one lakh hand-sanitizers, 50,000 shoe-covers and 8,000 gowns, reports UNB.

Among others, Health Minister Zahid Maleque and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen were present at the event held at the state guesthouse Padma in Dhaka.

Simultaneously, the first batch of the “most advanced kits” to detect coronavirus donated by China was scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh on Wednesday.

China is providing some 500 sets of bio-medical kits from Beijing Genomics Institute to help Bangladesh enhance its capacity to detect coronavirus.

“These are real-time fluorescent RT-PCR kits for detecting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are the first such donation to any country from China,” UNB said, quoting Yan Hualong, deputy chief of mission and minister (Counsellor) of Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.

More such kits will be supplied if any case is confirmed in Bangladesh, the Chinese envoy added.

Symptoms

People affected by the Novel Coronavirus usually have fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, pneumonia and kidney failure.

Protective Measures

WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows— which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

● Cleaning hands frequently by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

● When coughing and sneezing, one has to cover one’s mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue. After the use of tissue, it has to be thrown away immediately into a closed bin and one has to wash hands

● Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough

● If a person has fever, cough and breathing difficulty, he/she has to seek medical care as soon as possible and share previous travel history with the health care provider

● When visiting markets in areas currently experiencing cases of Novel Coronavirus, one has to avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals

● The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.