Bangladesh has not yet made a decision to ban flights to and from the UK, but it has announced that an institutional quarantine for seven days will be mandatory for passengers arriving from the UK.
The decision was made on Wednesday, against a background of nearly 60 countries banning the entry of passengers from the UK due to a new strain of coronavirus, which is 70% more contagious.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque revealed the information while speaking as the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of GeneXpert Machine and Mobile Laboratory at Ashkona Hajj Camp in the capital.
The health minister said even if passengers from the UK are allowed to go home after a test following their stay at the quarantine centres, they have to be in self-quarantine at home to complete a 14-day quarantine period.
Besides, separate lines and separate arrangements have been made at the airport for people returning from the UK, said Zahid Maleque.
The minister said flights to and from the United Kingdom will be suspended if such action is required.
"Discussions are underway with the authorities concerned, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office, regarding a suspension of flights with the United Kingdom. A decision on this will be announced soon," he said.
He also said the government does not have any plan to impose a lockdown in the country at present.
Meanwhile, experts have said it is a positive thing that a decision has been taken regarding travellers from the UK. However, to prevent the entry of new strains of coronavirus in the country, the country would have to be much more careful this time.
Noted virologist Professor Dr Nazrul Islam told The Business Standard, "Along with passengers from the UK, travellers from South Africa will also have to be quarantined, even if they have Covid-19 negative certificates. If any of them is Covid-19 positive, we have to do genome sequencing to see if the new strain of the novel coronavirus from the UK has entered the country."
"The new strain is highly contagious and increases the risk of infecting children. So far, no vaccine has been invented for kids, so kids are now vulnerable, too. If a new strain of coronavirus enters the country this time due to negligence, it will not be a mistake, it will be a crime," he added.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said, "At the last meeting of the committee on Tuesday night, we recommended that flights with the UK should be suspended for at least two weeks."
The new coronavirus variant has already been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia and Italy.
While experts emphasise that now passengers from any country have to be careful, around 150 passengers from Libya arrived in Bangladesh without Covid-19 test certificates on Tuesday.
The flight operator was fined Tk3 lakh by Airport Magistrate Ahmed Jamil for violating the rules.
The special flight of Burak Air was bringing back Bangladeshi nationals stranded in Libya.
The Bangladesh authorities allowed the flight on the condition that all the passengers would have to bring Covid-19 negative certificates as per the circular of the Civil Aviation Authority.
But after the flight landed in Dhaka, the staff of the health desk discovered that only three passengers had their Covid-19 negative certificates.
Those three were allowed to go home to spend the quarantine period as per rules.
The remaining passengers were sent to institutional quarantine.
Infected pregnant women unlikely to pass infection to newborns
While the whole world is terrified again by the new strain of coronavirus, a new study has revealed that pregnant women who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, during the third trimester are unlikely to pass the infection to their newborns.
The study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and published on Tuesday, followed 127 pregnant women who were admitted to Boston hospitals during the spring of 2020, reports Xinhua News Agency.
Among the 64 pregnant women who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, no newborns tested positive for the virus.
"This study provides some reassurance that SARS-CoV-2 infections during the third trimester are unlikely to pass through the placenta to the foetus, but more research needs to be done to confirm this finding," said Diana Bianchi, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.