Expatriates returning from the UK are not following institutional quarantine properly in Sylhet. The administration is also failing to ensure that quarantines are properly followed through.
Sylhet has the highest number of UK expatriates in the country. Recently, about 95% of the passengers coming to Bangladesh from the United Kingdom are from Sylhet. It is also in Sylhet that the UK returnees are breaking the quarantine rules the most.
The government has made institutional quarantine mandatory for passengers coming from the UK to prevent the spread of a new strain of coronavirus. To make this attempt successful, the government created contracts with many hotels across the country.
From the very beginning, the expatriates showed a kind of reluctance to stay at the hotel at their own expense. And even if they do stay in hotels due to the strict position of the administration, most of the expatriates do not follow the quarantine rules properly.
The expatriates are allegedly going out to shop, dining out, attending social events, and even getting married during their 'quarantine' period.
Recently in Sylhet, an expatriate returning from the UK while staying in a hotel for his institutional quarantine, got married. The wedding was held in the ballroom of the hotel of quarantine. The wedding was attended by more than 50 guests. The bride, a resident of Sylhet city, is staying with her husband at the same hotel after marriage.
Earlier, nine people who were staying in a city hotel for quarantine left the hotel without informing anyone. Later they were brought back to the hotel by the administration. These two incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the expatriates show such blatant disregard for quarantine rules.
The investigation of the intelligence agency has also revealed the picture of this dilapidated state of quarantine.
According to an intelligence source, 11 of the passengers who arrived in Sylhet from the UK on 18 March were placed in the official quarantine at Hotel La-Vista in the Lama Bazar area of the city.
Among them is a woman (48) and her son Abdul Muhi Uddin (28) of the Jangail area of Chhatak upazila of Sunamganj district. The mother was placed in room 401 of the hotel and the son in room 406.
As per the quarantine rules, they were not allowed to go out and meet anyone from outside. However, the son - Muhi Uddin - got married on 20 March, setting an example of gross disobedience for quarantine rules.
About 50 guests from outside attended the wedding in the ballroom of the hotel. After the formalities of the wedding, a banquet was also organised at the hotel restaurant.
According to the source, the mother of the expatriate youth, who is also under institutional quarantine, went out to shop for the occasion of her son's wedding.
Earlier, on 18 March, the very day of his return from the United Kingdom, the young man's akhd was held inside the hotel where guests from outside were also invited.
It has been alleged that the hotel authority is part of the rule-breaking. However, La-vista hotel authorities have denied the claim.
Tareq Ahmed, manager of Hotel La-Vista, said that no festivities took place during the wedding. Ahmed claims, only akhd (marriage registry) took place in presence of some four to five people including the Kazi (registrar of marriages under Muslim Law).
According to Ahmed, the family was given this opportunity considering the humanitarian aspect and the event took place in compliance with the complete hygiene rules.
However, some pictures of the grand event of the wedding were soon revealed which is contradictory to the hotel manager's statement. The police have also found evidence of the wedding ceremony taking place.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Media) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police BM Ashraf Ullah Taher said that they have found evidence of the wedding of an expatriate in quarantine taking place at La-Vista Hotel.
"The hotel owner has also acknowledged this. Right now, we are collecting information about who was present at the wedding and who cooperated in its organisation. Then, proper action will be taken against those responsible," Taher added.
About the expatriates breaking quarantine despite police surveillance, Taher said that police's responsibility is to provide security and if the hotel management feels the need, they should contact the law enforcement.
"Instead, the hotel management co-conspires with the people under quarantine and give them chances to secretly go out and get married and then blame the police," Taher complained.
In a separate incident, earlier, on 21 March, two officers of the intelligence agency NSI visited the Britannia Hotel in Amber Khana area of the city at around half-past two. Once arriving at the hotel, they found nine members of the same family, who had just returned from the UK, gone missing while under quarantine.
The members were later brought back and the group revealed to the authorities that they went to a village home in Zakiganj upazila to visit a patient.
After that, the mobile court fined six adults of the nine-member-group and the district administration cancelled the contract regarding institutional quarantine of the expatriates with Britannia Hotel.
Kawsar Khan, manager of the Britannia Hotel about the incident said that the hotel authority routinely checks on the guests in quarantine twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.
"On the day of the event, these expatriates took breakfast from the restaurant so we assumed they were at the hotel but later at noon, we could not find them anywhere and we started looking for them. That is exactly when a member of NSI appeared," Khan added.
The two NSI officials later visited Hotel Holy Gate at the Dargah gate area of Sangar that day and found four expatriates missing. Unfortunately, such incidents have now become commonplace among the expatriates in Sylhet.
As per the mandatory institutional quarantine, expatriates can get the opportunity to go out for a certain period with the permission of the Civil Surgeon under special circumstances. However, this opportunity is being grossly abused by the expatriates.
On Sunday, one of the UK-returnees who was supposed to be in quarantine at the city's Anurag Hotel was spotted wandering about the Zinda Bazar area of the city.
When enquired, the expatriate said, "I came to the bank in case of an emergency, now I will go back again. I had to get out due to some work, but most about everyone wanders around for no reason while still under quarantine," the expatriate said trying to justify their action.
After countless complaints flooding in, the administration is getting stricter about institutional quarantine.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Overall) of Sylhet ANM Badruddoza said, "We are being strict on these issues. The quarantine will be monitored further to ensure proper compliance."
However, stressing the importance of awareness, Badruddoza said, "We cannot treat people like they are criminals just out of whim so, we expect the expatriates to cooperate."
About the incidents at Hotel Britannia and La-Vista, he said "We have already taken action against Britannia Hotel and have come across the news of the wedding at La-Vista. We will soon take action against them as well."