The health minister gave a sombre picture of the corona situation in the country today calling it 'war-like' and yet, while he briefed the media, Dhaka's international entry gate was still open.
He disclosed, another person had died from coronavirus and four more were found positive bringing the total number of deaths to two with 24 confirmed cases.
The minister was briefing the media about the government's steps to fight the pandemic at the Health Directorate today.
And yet the international gateway was still left wide open with five flights landing today till 7pm at Dhaka with 1,104 passengers passing through the airport.
The cutting of air connectivity with 10 countries today may not mean anything now because already over a few hundred thousand people have entered the country, untested, and spread out.
"Every day some ten to 15,000 people are arriving in the country and we don't have the capacity to keep them [for quarantine] in any place. A stadium will not be enough for such a large number of people. That is why we have suggested home quarantine for them," Zahid Malik, the minister told a press briefing.
Two more hospitals to treat patients
In the briefing, the health minister said two more hospitals will be kept ready for coronavirus patients – Sheikh Hasina Burn Institute and Sheikh Russel Gastro-liver Institute.
Talking about increasing Covid-19 treatment facilities, he said that seven more testing machines are now in hand which will be deployed at different points. However, it will take some time to set up the machines and get them functional.
"We are also setting up 100 more ICUs for critical patients. We have ordered for around 350 more machines for ICU," he mentioned.
The health minister also said the government is considering flying in experts from China to tackle the situation.
"We will do that with the permission of the prime minister. Doctors and nurses from Wuhan will train their counterparts here," he said. "They will also advise us on what steps to take in the hospitals under this situation."
Medical equipment coming in from China
In a separate media briefing, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said medical testing kits and equipment for doctors are ready in China.
"The equipment will arrive anytime through a chartered flight," he said.
He was speaking with the media at the State Guest House Padma.
Under the Chinese emergency humanitarian aid project, 10,000 test kits, 15,000 surgical N95 masks, 10,000 medical protective clothing and 1,000 infrared thermometers will arrive to fight the pandemic according to the foreign minister.
WHO team meets Dhaka South Mayor
Meantime, a WHO team met with the Mayor of Dhaka South, Sayeed Khokon at his Banani residence today to discuss ways to fight the pandemic.
The WHO delegation led by the Country Representative Dr Bardan Jung Rana presented several alternatives that can be implemented for maintaining social distancing as well as for better communicating advices towards population on protecting themselves and the others, according to WHO country office source.
"We suggested to the government to stop mass gatherings and they have already stopped some of those," the WHO country representative added.
Mayor Sayeed Khokon talked with the media after the meeting and said, "Coronavirus situation may get worse in the future. We have to defeat it with everything we got."
"WHO shared the experience of the other countries of how they are fighting the virus. We called a meeting tomorrow with the stakeholders. At the meeting we will take next action plan," said Sayeed Khokon.
Police to ensure home quarantine
Earlier, answering a question in his press briefing as to why flights were still being allowed to come in, the health minister said many flights from Europe and the Middle East have been curtailed.
"Currently, several flights are active for emergency reasons," he said.
The health minister said passengers are let go from the airport after an ink seal is stamped on their arms advising them to stay in self-quarantine for 14 days.
"Many countries have taken similar steps and we adapted it from them. The seals are meant for police to identify these returnees," he said.
The minister said those who have arrived in the country since March 1 will be identified and quarantined. Police have been asked to ensure home quarantine, he said.
"We are urging people not to come to Bangladesh right now. I am also urging their family members to ask their relatives not to return," the minister said. "We have also spread this message through posters. But they are not listening. They are also carrying the virus."
Meanwhile, sources at the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) said there will be an urgent meeting on Sunday at the Nagor Bhaban to take initiatives for combating the Coronavirus outbreak.
All the stakeholders including Dhaka district administration will participate in the meeting.
DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon confirmed the information to The Business Standard at Saturday evening.
Earlier, the DSCC Mayor held a meeting with the representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), where the delegations urged the Mayor to take urgent action to fight the Coronavirus outbreak.