Though no case of infection has been registered yet, Bangladesh has been placed on the flight suspension list of Kuwait for the first time over coronavirus fears.
Kuwait suspended all flights to and from seven countries, including Bangladesh, for a week starting on Saturday.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation of Kuwait issued a circular in this regard yesterday.
The other six countries are Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Philippines, India and Srilanka.
Coronavirus cases were detected in five of the countries, but there has been no detection in Bangladesh and Syria.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has, meanwhile, cancelled two Kuwait-bound flights, which were scheduled for March 7 and 10.
Further decision about the cancelled flights will be made known later, according to a Biman press release yesterday.
Biman usually has two flights on the Dhaka-Kuwait route every week.
However, the authorities in Bangladesh are still in the dark about the flight suspension by Kuwait despite no case of coronavirus having been identified.
"We were not aware about flight suspension by Kuwait with Bangladesh," said Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
The issue will be discussed with the foreign ministry, she said at a press briefing called to provide an update on the coronavirus issue at the IEDCR headquarters yesterday.
However, airlines company insiders in Bangladesh said questions had arisen over the poor detection system at airports in Bangladesh.
The airport authorities are using thermal scanners to detect cases of high fever among inbound passengers. There are seven scanners at three airports – Dhaka, Sylhet and Chattogram – and Benapole land port. But all scanners are dysfunctional except for one at Dhaka airport.
At the press briefing, Flora admitted that six out of seven thermal scanners were dysfunctional.
Hand-held thermometers are being used to measure the body temperature of passengers.
She said the health ministry had sought 10 thermal scanners from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Kuwait has also banned the entry of anyone who has been to any of the seven countries in the last two weeks, except for Kuwaitis coming from the seven countries. They will be allowed entry but will have to submit to quarantine procedures, according to the Kuwaiti civil aviation directorate added.
In an advisory on Saturday, Kuwait's Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the temporary ban on the entry of flights to Kuwait International Airport would be in place on March 6 and would last "one week".
On March 4, Kuwait's civil aviation authority said passengers from 10 nations, including Bangladesh, must produce certificates issued by the Kuwaiti embassy in their respective countries guaranteeing that they are coronavirus-free.
The Kuwaiti authorities recently instituted a spate of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, including quarantines and banning visits to prisons for two weeks.
When the whole world has been shaken up with corona fever, with infections registered in 98 countries, the Bangladesh government has appeared to have little preparation, thus raising concerns on the global platform.
No precautionary measures like national advertisement regarding awareness or coronavirus detection centres in hospitals have been noticed.
Although three hospitals in the capital have isolation units ready, the isolation system is under question.
The Infectious Diseases Hospital at Mohakhali has opened a ten-bed unit on its first floor. Two rooms there have been separated into male and female wards. However, the ten beds have just two bathrooms – posing a risk of infection for other patients isolated in the unit.
Experts say the isolation units are not up to the mark. They say a glass-partitioned unit will not deter infection by the airborne disease.
"To treat patients with the airborne infection, there should be a negative pressure room to allow air to flow into the isolation room, but not to escape from it," they said.
The concern about poor detection system of coronavirus in Bangladesh has also been reflected in foreigners' remarks.
Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently said coronavirus has spread across the whole world but the Bangladesh authorities are only screening Chinese nationals before the latter enter the country.
Terming the process "unscientific", the ambassador urged the authorities to screen everyone entering the country and discouraged the government against holding large gatherings.
He also said the screening facility in the country is inefficient.
The Chinese diplomat warned that Bangladesh is facing a high risk of being affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak as the virus has already spread to different parts of the globe.
The Asian Development Bank has already estimated that the corona outbreak will cost Bangladesh $3.021 billion – about 1.1 percent of the country's total economic output.
Additionally, every 895 out of 1,000 people may lose their jobs.