The Bangladesh government has reduced the mandatory institutional quarantine for UK returnees from 14 days to four days.
Directives in this regard were issued in a letter sent by the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on Wednesday.
"From 15 January, incoming passengers from the United Kingdom will have to stay in a four-day compulsory institutional quarantine. Returnees' samples for Covid-19 tests will be collected after the four-day quarantine period is completed," the notice said.
The notice also instructed the UK returnees remain in home quarantine for 10 days after testing negative for the virus, starting from the end of the compulsory 14-day quarantine period.
However, if they test positive for Covid-19 during the mandatory quarantine period, they will be admitted to the designated government isolation centres and will have to bear all their treatments expenses.
Experts are outraged by the announcement that the quarantine period for UK returnees has been slashed.
Professor Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Business Standard, "We already know that home quarantine is not effective in our country. Now if the new UK strain of the coronavirus enters Bangladesh through an incoming passenger, infections and fatalities will increase again. Where did the CDC get the idea of reducing the mandatory quarantine period for UK returnees? There is no scientific basis for this decision."
"Our infection rate has come down below 5%. However, the situation may deteriorate again due to incorrect decisions being taken. The whole world is aware of the new UK strain of the coronavirus and Bangladesh is playing a game here," added Professor Nazrul Islam.
He said the issue would be discussed at a meeting of the technical committee on Friday.
According to the notice, incoming passengers from the UK will bear all costs incurred during the mandatory quarantine. If UK returnees are unable to observe quarantine in government-designated hotels, quarantine arrangements will be made for them in the government-built camp.
On 28 December last year, the government made it mandatory for UK-returnees to stay in a 14-day institutional quarantine to prevent the spread of the new strain of Covid-19.
A new variant of the highly infectious coronavirus originated in the United Kingdom sometime in September.
The new variant, VUI–202012/01, which accounted for nearly 60% of all cases in London by mid-December, is thought to be 70% more transmissible than earlier versions of the coronavirus.
Scientists are still researching the effects, virulence, and severity of the new strain.
Panic spread across the world after the new coronavirus strain was discovered across the UK.