While the world is closing down their borders to passengers coming from China in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh still keeps its border open with 5631 passengers coming in from various Chinese cities in the last two weeks until Feb 2.
More absurdly, the government has decided to put passengers coming from China or those who had visited China in the last 14 days under "self-quarantine", which means they will have to sign an undertaking that they will keep themselves indoors for 14 days and let the authorities know if they come down with fever during this time.
If anyone fails to quarantine themselves and there is a coronavirus outbreak as a result, legal actions would be taken against them.
But the greatest risk that it poses is that despite this undertaking people might not go by it and might lead to infection. There is no way to monitor the whereabouts of these persons and if the infection spreads, taking legal action will mean very little.
What other countries are following is mandatory quarantine by the authorities and not such 'self-quarantine'. Countries such as South Korea have also declared that they would arrest anyone who refuses to go to the quarantine centres.
Bangladesh has quarantined only its citizens who have been brought back under special arrangements from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. The people arriving from other parts of China are not being quarantined.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told The Business Standard that Wuhan still remains in lockdown. The airport authorities do a thermal scanner test on the people coming from other states and towns of China. And they are given a health card containing the IEDCR hotline number to contact if they get fever or cough within the next 14 days.
Coronavirus has so far spread to a total of 27 countries. China confirmed more than 17,000 cases of the virus. Some 361 people have died there. Outside China, over 150 have been infected with the virus. Only one death outside China was reported in the Philippines.
Professor Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman at the Department of Virology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said, "When a total of 65 countries halted flight operations to China, I personally believe, it is very risky for Bangladesh to continue that."
A densely populated country like Bangladesh is at a greater risk of coronavirus infection. Under these circumstances, it is essential to quarantine all who come from China, he added.
The whole world has taken a strong stance against coronavirus. International airports across the globe have taken up special precautionary measures after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak in China an international emergency.
However, Bangladesh policymakers imagine providing a health card to China returnees after a thermal testing is good enough to prevent any virus outbreak of this virulent strain.
A Bangladeshi medical student, who returned from China amid coronavirus outbreak, was shocked by the sloppy management for checking passengers for symptoms at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.
"But I did not notice any measures at the Dhaka airport," said Helal Shikder, 25, a 10th semester student at Tongji University in Shanghai, China.
"The airport authority did not do any health check-up on me except for a thermal scanner test," Helal said.
"Just before leaving the airport, an immigration official wanted to know from which country I came from. Nobody else wanted to know anything. I was stunned!"
Meanwhile, Wuhan-returnee pilots and crew of the Biman flight that brought back the 312 Bangladeshis from Wuhan city on Saturday, are not being allowed to enter other countries, said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam at a cabinet meeting on Monday.
According to the IEDCR, a total of 5,952 people arrived in Bangladesh till Monday. It has received 290 calls for inquiry over coronavirus. So far, some 39 have gone through coronavirus tests. But no one has been diagnosed with the virus yet.
Only coronavirus free crew can come to Chattogram port
The Chattogram Port Authority asked all ships coming to the seaport to declare that their onboard crew members are not infected with coronavirus. The Chattogram Port allows the vessel to come for berthing only after getting the declaration.
The CPA has made it mandatory for the shipping agents who work as representatives of the merchant ships, to submit the declaration signed by a vessel captain that the "ship's Master and his crew members are free from coronavirus."
Commodore M Shafiul Bari, Member Harbour and Marine of CPA said, "We have identified three areas where our people come in touch with foreigners in the port limit. These areas have pose risks of infection from coronavirus if our people come in touch with any infected foreigners. These are harbour where 25 jetties of the port are located, the outer anchorage of the port and immigration."