Sahab Uddin of Shariatpur went to Italy in 2005. He has a souvenir shop in the Italian capital, Rome. But he had to close his shop like other businesses in the city that were shut down in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"As I closed my shop, I had no income there. So, I decided to come back to Bangladesh," he told The Business Standard.
Sahab is among the 152 Bangladeshis who returned from Italy on an Emirates flight on Sunday morning.
Some of them said they had to return as there was no work in Italy now after their employers had closed businesses.
One such returnee is Oli Ullah, who said, "My employer suggested that I return home. When the situation improves, I will go back."
All 152 returnees were taken to Ashkona Hajj camp directly after they landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Earlier, at around 2am on Sunday, 58 Bangladeshis returned from Italy and were also taken to the camp, which is being used as a temporary quarantine centre for coronavirus patients.
Most of the Italy returnees alleged that the camp is not a livable place.
"We slept on mattresses on the floor at night. Although the rooms are large, the environment is dusty and toilets are dirty," said Md Arafat.
"A plate of khichuri and an egg were supplied for breakfast, but the quality of the khichuri is poor," he said.
He also claimed there was a food shortage and one-third of the people did not get any food and drinking water.
Another returnee Sheikh Alamin said they were not given any food until 11am. Mosquitoes made the situation worse. The environment in the camp is really dirty, he added.
"How do the authorities expect that the returnees will stay here if the environment is not hygienic?" Alamin questioned.
Many relatives of the returnees were waiting outside the camp since morning. They alleged mismanagement too.
Parul Begum, mother of a returnee, said, "My son did not get breakfast. Moreover, there was no doctor for hours to conduct the health checkup."
The Directorate General of Health Services, however, denied the allegations.
Its Director General Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad said food and mosquito nets had been supplied to the returnees.
In the first week of February, 312 Bangladeshi returnees from China were brought to the camp, and some of them also raised mismanagement allegations at that time.
Dr Azad said the health directorate had tried its best to provide the China returnees with services that an ideal quarantine centre should have.
Doubts about home quarantine
The health directorate released 58 returnees from the camp after initial checkup on Sunday.
"They tested negative for the virus and were released. They have been asked to remain in home quarantine for 14 days," said Dr Azad.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advises a 14-day home quarantine for travellers from countries with widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission of the virus, including Italy.
Dr Nazrul Islam, a virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said he has doubts whether the returnees would follow home quarantine guidelines properly.
"The family members of those staying in home quarantine have to follow the guidelines too. This is because the family members will take care of the returnees, such as bringing food and other necessary items," he explained.
He said local health officials are supposed to monitor whether home quarantine guidelines are being followed properly both by the returnees and their family members.
"However, there are not enough people to do this task. Moreover, the health officials do not have proper training in this," said Dr Nazrul.
"This is why quarantine imposed by the authorities is far better than home quarantine. Also, there should be a dedicated quarantine centre where we can keep the returnees," he added.
ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told The Business Standard that the remaining 152 returnees at the camp were being tested.
"Those who had tested negative were released," he said.
Alamgir informed that apart from the two groups of 152 and 58 returnees, some other Bangladeshis returned from Italy between Saturday and Sunday. Of them, 42 are in Meghdubi quarantine camp in Gazipur.
Dr ABM Abdullah, a medicine specialist and personal physician to the prime minister, said, "Usually, if one shows no symptoms such as fever, cough or runny nose, we send them home to stay in self quarantine. There is no need for blood test."
We will take cough samples if there are symptoms, he said.
He also said if the returnees do not follow home quarantine guidelines properly, the law enforcement agencies would take steps against them.