As part of the government's initiative to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has readied four launches in Sadarghat to serve as isolation centres.
The government will be able to transfer coronavirus patients to these launches for isolation and treatment at any time.
Meanwhile, BIWTA is keeping two more launches ready, in coastal districts Barishal and Patuakhali, to serve as isolation centres. The government took the step considering the fact that the two districts currently have no institutional isolation centres.
On April 4, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury announced the decision to use launches as isolation and treatment centres for Covid-19 patients.
The BIWTA has readied six large launches to be used as isolation centres, and those will be used as soon as the Ministry of Health and the Cabinet Division give their permission.
Speaking with The Business Standard, BIWTA Director Rafiqul Islam said, "Four launches have been kept at the ready near the Sadarghat terminal. As soon as the health ministry gives us the go-ahead, the launches will be brought to Lalkuthi terminal.
"The launch owners have extended their sincere support in the matter. If the government wants, it will get launches for use as isolation centres anywhere."
He continued, "The launches currently at the ready in Sadarghat have around 700 beds each. Whether the decks will be used to isolate Covid-19 patients, will be decided by the health department."
Rafiqul Islam further said, "Two launches, MV Surovi-8 and AR Khan, are ready to serve as isolation centres at the Barishal and Patuakhali terminals. Banners identifying the launches as isolation centres have been hung on the vessels.
"Deputy commissioners of the districts have approved the initiative. However, no patients have been brought on board these launches as yet."
According to sources concerned, the authorities have yet to decide how treatment will be provided to Covid-19 patients isolated on those launches.
Is it up to the health ministry to decide whether doctors and healthcare workers stay on the launches, or visit the patients according to a set schedule for the patients' treatment.