Despite the rapidly increasing cases of Omicron in neighbouring India, truck drivers and their assistants from there are entering Bangladesh through the Hili land port without any testing for the virus.
In India, Omicron cases have been increasing every day. Although other passport holding passengers entering the country are tested for the virus, truck drivers transporting goods from India are not tested at all.
Locals fear these untested truck drivers might contribute to a sudden surge in the Omicron infection rate of border districts.
On average, 180 to 200 cargo trucks and 350-400 drivers and their assistants enter the country through the Hili land port every day. None of them are tested for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, due to the deteriorating pandemic situation, India has stopped allowing passengers from Bangladesh to enter the country through the Hili Immigration Check Post, but Bangladesh is still allowing passengers from India to enter.
Indian truck driver Nasir Uddin told The Business Standard, "We entered Bangladesh without any corona test, neither in India nor in Bangladesh. The infection rate is on the rise on both sides of the border and we are in a bit of a panic."
Anil Kumar, another Indian truck driver, said, "Corona infections have increased alarmingly in India, making us nervous. We are not being tested anywhere and preventive measures are limited to wearing masks and sanitising trucks only. The virus can enter Bangladesh from India through me or vice versa, so it would have been better to arrange for corona testing."
Bangladeshi truck driver Sagar Khan said, "Despite increased corona infections in West Bengal of India, nobody is following hygiene rules, neither Indian truck drivers entering Bangladesh, nor Bangladeshi truck drivers taking delivery of goods at the land port from Indian trucks. We are anxious as Indian drivers and assistants are mixing indiscriminately with their Bangladeshi counterparts. We are fearful the coronavirus may spread from them to Bangladeshi drivers and workers."
As such, Indian drivers and their assistants should be subject to corona testing. Measures should be taken to keep them apart and have them comply with hygiene rules.
Munna Hossain, a local, thinks people in border areas would feel safer if Indian drivers were subject to corona testing.
Sohrab Hossain, a Hili Land Port public relations officer, says that after Indian trucks enter the port, drivers remain in a designated place till the goods are unloaded. Separate bathrooms and toilets have been provided and they are monitored by security guards to prevent them from going out.
"However, we have not received any government instruction yet to test the Indian drivers for the virus. Import and export processes at the port are generally following previous management protocols," he added.