In the backdrop of the new coronavirus outbreak in many countries around the world, Bangladesh is at risk of an attack by the deadly virus, and more caution is required to tackle the situation, said specialists.
Bangladesh is not free from risk in the present situation, but the authorities have taken all necessary measures, said Dr Sania Tahmina, additional director of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Doctors and health workers in the country are being trained on dealing with coronavirus. Thirty doctors are being trained in the second phase of training, she added.
Passengers at the airport are being asked to fill out health declaration forms and passenger locator forms to identify coronavirus patients.
The virus is believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where wildlife was being sold illegally. The virus has spread to other Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as to the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and India.
According the New York Times, on Sunday morning China announced 15 more deaths caused by the new coronavirus. The latest deaths brought the toll in China to 56. Another 688 cases of the new virus were diagnosed across the country on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,975.
Around 600-700 passengers come from China to Bangladesh in four flights daily, so there is a huge risk that some of them can carry the coronavirus here. All land ports, sea ports and airports are on alert to prevent the entry of any coronavirus patient.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport says it is ensuring that all passengers go through the thermal scanner.
All pilots, crew, and immigration officials involved in Chinese flights have been alerted too, said Wing Commander Towhid-ul-Ahsan, director of Shahjalal Airport.
All airports in Bangladesh have installed thermal scanners, which will identify any passenger whose body temperature is more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Such passengers will be kept in a quarantine ward for observation and treatment, and might be sent to Kurmitola General Hospital, said sources at the DGHS.
Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said the measures taken by Bangladesh are sufficient, but these should be monitored properly.
"Typically people are in a hurry to return home from the airport. We have to make sure that nobody leaves the airport without examination. Even one or two coronavirus patients entering our country might cause havoc," Said Dr Nazrul.
The only treatment for coronavirus is to put patients in an isolated intensive care unit, he added.
Dr Nazrul thinks that hospitals in the capital and medical teams should be prepared to counter the virus outbreak.
The DGHS said, people can also seek help in an emergency at these numbers: 01937110011, 01937000011, 01787691372 and 01787691373.
"Some patients have already called these numbers fearing an attack of coronavirus. We are not examining patients who do not have a travel history," Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
He said eight patients have been tested till now, two of whom were diagnosed with influenza.
Professor Dr Meerzady Sabrina Flora, director of the IEDCR, said there is a sufficient supply of re-agents used in testing for the coronavirus infection.
Government mulls China travel ban for coronavirus
The Bangladesh government is mulling a ban on travelling to and from China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
"The ban proposal will be discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting on January 28," Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque said after a meeting on Coronavirus yesterday.
During the meeting, the Director General of the Health Directorate informed the health minister about the precautions taken at airports, land ports and borders to prevent the spread of coronavirus.