As WHO declared the outbreak of coronavirus, or Covid-19, a pandemic yesterday US President Donald Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions on 26 European countries in a bid to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
India has cancelled all tourist visas and e-visas granted on or before March 11 for 15 days.
Many Bangladeshis who have been visiting India have now got stranded because of these border control measures.
Meanwhile, Tripura, a neighbouring eastern state of India, closed border haats with Bangladesh on March 11 to stop large gathering as is usual in these local markets.
On March 3, the US embassy in Dhaka marked Bangladesh among the 25 countries at risk of deadly coronavirus or Covid-19.
The latest data for infections and deaths sound high. WHO reported yesterday 1.26 lakh people have been diagnosed with the virus across 114 countries.
Analyses of available data on infections worldwide show the virus spread exponentially, sometimes in a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
But Bangladesh, being one of the 25 high risk countries, has yet to put any such border control measures to restrict the entry of persons from the virus infected regions.
Is that a sound decision?
Experience shows that the current measures set up at the borders and entry points like the airports are inadequate to detect Covid-19 infected persons.
The first three cases detected in Bangladesh passed through the airport scanning at the entry port without raising any red flags. This proves just monitoring elevated body temperatures is not a reliable indicator of Covid-19 infection.
An author, Tomas Pueyo, an expert in data analysis who used raw data from the Journal of American Medical Association to analyse the spread of the coronavirus in Hubei, the epicenter of the disease, says, if the world leaders delay in putting the world in a total lockdown immediately, the whole situation will go out of control so fast that there will be catastrophic results.
He writes, "The only way to prevent this is social distancing today, not tomorrow."
Experts say, while common cold and flu is a known disease with preventive medicines, Covid-19 is not.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told The Business Standard that common flu was an annual infectious disease that had vaccines and medicines for comparatively simple treatments.
"The case of Covid-19 is different," he added.
The fear and concern with this virus is, it is so new and fast spreading.
Corona virus has no vaccines or specific medicines. It is spreading faster than common flu and its vaccines and medicines have not been invented yet, he said.
Answering to a question on why Bangladesh is still keeping its borders open while most countries are effecting lockdowns, Dr Alamgir said that the virus has not yet transmitted locally. Countries which could not control local transmission of the disease have resorted to lockdown.
"We shall consider sealing the borders if it is transmitted locally," he said.
Dr Drew Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, told the New York Times that keeping people apart in time and space with social distancing measures, self-isolation and actual quarantine decrease opportunities for transmission.
However, experts say that the infection rate cannot be totally stopped but it can be reduced by isolation.
Professor M Ridwanur Rahman, head of research at the Universal Medical College Research Centre and former head of medicine at Shahid Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, told The Business Standard that detection, quarantine, isolation, and social distancing are the four methods China has used to control the virus.
"Isolation patients must be kept in hospitals and special ambulances must be used to carry Covid-19 patients," he said.
Bangladesh remains open
Globally many airlines have halted flights to areas with the virus outbreak.
Russia has banned Chinese and Iranian nationals, Hong Kong and Macau passport holders as well as travelers arriving from Iran.
India has banned travelers who have been in China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea or Spain on or after 1 February.
Meanwhile, even when the first corona cases to be detected in Bangladesh were from Italy there is no ban on passengers flying in from that country.
Qatar Airways has cancelled all flights from six countries including Bangladesh leaving wage earners stranded at Dhaka.
Saudi Arabian Airlines has also cut the number of flights from Dhaka to Saudi Arabia.
However, Bangladesh on February 1 suspended the visa on arrival for Chinese citizens for an indefinite period.
The Chinese citizens working in Bangladesh have also been instructed not to leave the country for at least one month.
Passengers arriving from China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong or Macau must fill-in a health clearance form provided by cabin crew.
Even though, some countries have suspended flights to and from Bangladesh, there has been no indication of any lockdown or preparation of lockdown from authorities.