Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Bangladesh, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is supporting the government to strengthen emergency health surveillance systems at Points of Entry (PoE) in Bangladesh in line with the National Preparedness and Response Plan on Covid-19.
IOM supports national authorities to strengthen the cooperation among agencies, refurbish POEs, and build the capacity of PoE personnel to identify, screen and refer ill travellers with Covid-19 symptoms.
The organisation is supporting government-led efforts at eight PoEs, including Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport (HSIA), Sylhet Osmani International Airport, Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport (SAIA), Chittagong Sea Port, and Akhaura, Benapole, and Darshana Border Crossing Points, and Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station, reads a press release.
IOM has organised training for PoE staff, distributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene material, and provided technical guidance on the development of standard operating procedures for suspected Covid-19 cases in aircraft, and management of health screening of travellers transiting through border control points.
Since March 2020, with funding from the government of Japan, IOM completed rapid needs assessments of eight PoEs, convened eight PoE Health Border Mobility Management task force meetings, arranged two ad hoc Crisis Management Team meetings at HSIA.
IOM also donated equipment items to the Communicable Disease Control Unit of the Directorate General of Health Services to improve data and information management, as well as facilitate communication.
Besides, the organisation donated an ambulance to SAIA in Chattogram, donated PPE and other protective material to eight PoEs, supported the government to develop two Standard Operating Procedures for management of travellers at airports and management of suspected Covid-19 cases in aircraft.
IOM has also installed health screening and support desks/booths at Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station and HSIA, assigned medical support staff to SAIA, supplied Information Education Communication material (900,000 Health declaration forms, 50,000 passenger locator forms, and 100,000 other screening forms), and trained 352 frontline workers.
On 23 July, IOM provided health screening facilities to HSIA in Dhaka, Bangladesh's busiest international airport. All inbound and outbound passengers are being screened at the health screening desks where health declaration forms are being collected by staff from the Ministry of Health.
The semi-permanent health screening facilities installed at the airport are scalable and fitted with protective screens to ensure that screening staff are protected when questioning travellers and collecting passenger health declaration forms during border control operations.
The health screening desks are open on a 24/7 basis. Passengers are being screened and provided with information on symptom identification, the importance of quarantine, and when and how to seek treatment.
There are 28 points of entry to Bangladesh and these land, sea, and air border crossing points can act as the gateway for the import of infectious disease. To support containment measures, it is essential to identify ill travellers at points of entry and enhance capacities to prevent further spread of Covid-19 at the community level.
The identification of passengers with Covid-19 symptoms and subsequent referral for testing or quarantine will enable authorities to contain the transmission at the source. The systems in place, also support national authorities to prevent infected outbound passengers from exporting infection to other countries.
In line with humanitarian border management guidance, IOM proposed a combination of measures to strengthen the capacities of the government to prevent and control the risk of the spread of the disease through PoEs.
Recommended measures include enhanced coordination among agencies, installation of health screening facilities, the collection of travel information from passengers, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, the implementation of strict sanitisation measures at PoEs, the adherence by travellers and PoE personnel to government guidelines on social distancing, and the training of PoE staff.
"The threat to Bangladesh remains the virus, not people. We are working with the government to ensure the safety of migrants leaving or returning to Bangladesh by supporting measures to identify travellers with symptoms as they transit through points of entry.
We strengthen the response capacity of authorities through reinforcing infrastructure, making PPE readily available to frontline workers, and by implementing responsive procedures that evolve as we learn more about how this virus is transmitted and how it can be contained," said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.
IOM has worked to support national authorities in Dhaka, Chattogram, and Sylhet to incorporate health screening checks into existing airport processes. The health screening measures implemented at the airports are part of the government's initiatives to build back public confidence in air travel.
IOM estimates that there could be hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returning to Bangladesh by the end of the year. While incoming flights to HSIA are still limited, IOM is supporting national authorities to prepare for the resumption of regular travel schedules and the resultant increase of travellers visiting the health desks.
In the coming months, IOM will expand support to additional PoEs, and the Organisation will continue to support the development of migrant-centred systems that balance the need for mobility and containment.