The flurry of Bangladeshi expatriates returning home is raising threats of new infections and putting more strain to the country's arrangements for quarantine.
On Saturday, 201 Bangladeshis returned from Italy while 150 more, according to Health Minister Zahid Malek, are coming back tonight.
This large number of returnees are likely to add pressure to government's effort to tackle the possible coronavirus outbreak in the country, said Prof Nazrul Islam, a virology expert and former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
So far, at least 1,650 Bangladeshi returnees are in self-quarantine at their homes countrywide, with Chandpur having the most number of people, 1007, under the restriction.
Besides, four more are in institutional quarantine while 10 are isolated at different government hospitals, according to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
All these indicate that the country is exposed to an outbreak of the deadly virus anytime from anywhere, according to Prof Nazrul.
He suggested setting up of additional dedicated quarantine centres along with the one at Ashkona Hajj Camp in the capital.
Against this backdrop, the government has taken tougher steps for coronavirus prevention. From now on, travellers coming from corona-hit countries will be put in mandatory quarantine.
Health Minister Zahid Malek on Saturday said that anyone breaking the government directives may face fine and even jail.
"We cannot let crores of people get exposed to the coronavirus by allowing the returnees to move freely in the country," he said.
"We requested the expatriates to not return from infected countries at this time. But after having a big inflow [Saturday], we can no longer allow the returnees to go home before necessary medical tests," he said.
Even though risks are there for a sudden outbreak of the virus in the country, Bangladesh is still allowing flights from most of the corona-hit countries.
Civil Aviation Chairman Mafidur Rahman said they cannot stop flights from coming to Bangladesh unless the government bans them.
On top of that, these expatriates are not returning from Italy on direct flights rather via some other countries, he further said.
Meanwhile at Ashkona Hajj Camp in the capital, a chaos erupted on Saturday after some of the 142 Italy-returnees refused to go into the 14-day quarantine there.
They also chanted slogans against alleged "mismanagement by the authorities", claiming that no doctors or health officials visited them till 2:45pm.
"We are in good health now. We have neither fever nor coughs. Let us go home," they screamed at the police and officials.
Additional police were deployed in the quarantine centre after they tried to forcibly leave the camp.
"Some expatriates even made a break for the camp gate. Later, police made them return to the camp," Noor-e-Azam, officer-in-charge of Airport police station told The Business Standard.
However, the IEDCR confirmed that the initial test on the returnees found them in good condition.
"We have collected saliva samples from them for further tests. After getting the report, we will decide if they need home-quarantine or institutional support," said IEDCR Director Meerjady Sabrina Flora.
No more corona patient in Bangladesh
Meanwhile, the country has no more coronavirus patient as the three infected Bangladeshi patients have completely recovered from the disease, said the IEDCR.
One of them has been discharged from the hospital while two others are still under observation, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora told reporters on Saturday.
On March 8, Bangladesh reported its first three cases of coronavirus. Two of them had returned from Italy.
23 Bangladeshis return from India's quarantine
In the meantime, 23 Bangladeshis, quarantined in the suburbs of the Indian capital, arrived home on Saturday with health clearance certificates.
The returnees are mostly students and a family with one child, who went through necessary health check-ups in India and arrived at the Dhaka airport in the afternoon. Later, they were released to their family members.
They were evacuated from China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, on February 27 by a special Indian Air Force flight with a number of other Indian nationals, said the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
Emirates suspends flights to Italy
In the meantime, Emirates, one of the world's biggest international airlines, has suspended all flights to Italy from today, in response to the latest developments in the Covid-19 outbreak globally.
The airline operated its last flight from Rome of Italy on Saturday, according to a press release.
Earlier, it suspended flights between Dubai and Venice on March 11, and Milan and Bologna on March 13. Hence, there will be no flight between Dubai and Italy from today.
The death toll from coronavirus reached 5,436 globally as of Saturday. Besides, 145,810 cases were reported from around the world, with Europe the current epicentre of the outbreak.