The immigration authorities at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka have resorted to marking all inbound passengers with stamps on their arms – to keep track of those who have been asked to remain under home quarantine.
The authorities began this practice on Thursday afternoon, said Al Amin, sanitary inspector at the airport's Health Centre.
"The stamp reads 'Proud to protect Bangladesh; Home quarantine until April 4, 2020," said Prof Anwar Hossain of the Bangladesh Agriculture University, Mymensingh. He returned from Japan, along with his wife and two children, at 12.30pm on Friday by a Thai Airways flight.
"After arriving at the airport, I went through the health screening. I was told that my body temperature was normal," said Prof Anwar.
The professor added that he and his family would remain in quarantine at his residence on the university campus for the next 14 days.
Dr Shahriar Sazzad, health officer-in-charge of the Health Centre at Dhaka's airport, said, "We are operating a health screening procedure. The immigration authorities are stamping the arms of returnees."
According to the Health Centre operated by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), a total of 2,371 people underwent a health screening at the airport between Thursday 8:00am to Friday 8:00am.
No expatriates, who arrived in Dhaka airport, from Friday morning to 7:00pm of the day, showed any symptom of coronavirus, according to the health centre.
However, Dr Nazrul Islam, a virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said he had doubts as to whether the returnees would follow the home quarantine guidelines properly.
"This is why quarantine imposed by the authorities is far better than home quarantine," he added.
Dr Shahnila Ferdousi, line director at Centre for Disease Control of the DGHS, said, "The number of returnees from abroad is large. It is tough to maintain institutional quarantine."
Airport appears deserted
AHM Touhid-ul-Ahsan, director of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said, "Usually at least 50 flights come from abroad per day."
"However, the civil aviation authority has set the number at 25 per day, for the last three days, and the number of incoming flights has decreased to less than this, " he added.
According to the authority, a total of 12 flights from abroad reached Dhaka airport between Friday morning and evening.
"The number of passengers has decreased by 60-70 percent now," said Touhid.
"The corona catastrophe has reduced the presence of people here. Now, many flights are being cancelled and people are not coming here," said Jashim Uddin, a shopkeeper in the airport area.
"My average business was Tk10,000-Tk12,000 per day, but it has decreased to Tk800-Tk900 per day – in the last week," he added.
Ismail Hossain, a driver at a rent-a-car service in the airport area, said his earnings had also plummeted over the last few days.