After returning his home in Netrokona from Italy, Babu (not his real name) was supposed to stay indoors under voluntary isolation, because he arrived from a country that has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
But he ignored the instructions and moved around freely in the neighbourhood until neighbours forced him to stay at home. But a few days had passed like this, and if he carries the coronavirus (formally known as Covid-19), it might have infected others.
Alpana Begum, a neighbor of the returnee, told The Business Standard that she is now facing the risk of coronavirus infection.
"How could the man move around and meet his relatives and neighbours under the administration's nose? They [the local administration] cannot avoid responsibility for this incident," she said.
There are currently six people in home quarantine across Netrokona.
This is not an isolated incident. As a resident of Majh Digha village under Natore Sadar upazila said three expatriate youths – who returned from China on March 10 – have been seen freely roaming around in the area.
When asked about the matter, Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Jahangir Alam said he sent police to one of the youths' home around midnight on Monday to restrict his movement. "The expatriate, who was found in good health, is now under home quarantine," said Jahangir.
He, however, has no information about the other two expatriates.
The cabinet on Monday decided that anyone returning from abroad must be under quarantine for 14 days, or face legal action. The health ministry also announced guidelines to be followed for proper home quarantine.
But even a day after the announcement, things have not change for the better. Many returnees are flouting home-quarantine guidelines by claiming they are in good health. People in these communities are in fear of a coronavirus outbreak because of such behavior.
Nirob Hossain (not his real name) returned from Italy on March 3, and went to his home in Madaripur's sadar upazila directly. He went on to meet his relatives and neighbours.
On a tip off, the upazila administration put 29 people, including the returnee from Italy under home quarantine on March 10. But there are allegations that many of them are not following the guidelines, and even the local administration is not monitoring them properly.
These 29 people ended their quarantine period on March 15. But three of them have been suffering a high body temperature for the last two days.
Elias Hossain, a member of Kunia Union Parishad, said people who are supposed to be under home-quarantine are moving around here and there, claiming they are now feeling well.
A person who was in isolation told The Business Standard that the returnee from Italy is his relative and he interacted with him closely.
"This is totally the administration's failure and we are the victims of its mismanagement," he said.
UNO of Madaripur Sadar, Saifuddin Gias said, "We kept the 29 people of Kunia union under home quarantine so as to keep all suspected coronavirus carriers in isolation. But now three of them are showing symptoms of infection."
When asked how the people put under 14-day isolation moved around freely, the UNO declined to make any comments, saying that it is "old news."
Meanwhile, Madaripur Civil Surgeon Shafiqul Islam said they are looking into the matter, adding, "The people who did not complete their designated period of isolation, will be sent into isolation again."
So far, 129 people have been put under home quarantine in the district.
The Business Standard team also found negligence in keeping the returnees under isolation before the government's announcement in this regard on Monday. Most of these people also lack a proper isolation environment in their homes.
The negligence of both the people and the administration might led to a massive outbreak of coronavirus across the country. In the meantime, the coronavirus spreads locally.
"All local or foreign nationals must follow the 14-day quarantine rule, or else legal action will be taken against them," said Cabinet Secretary Khandkar Anwarul Islam on Monday.
The announcement came after Director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) identified two local people infected with the coronavirus.
According to IEDCR sources, currently 3,488 people are in home quarantine across the country, which was 2,471 only a day before. The number of self-quarantined people is increasing day by day.
In last eight days, more than one lakh people returned from different coronavirus-hit countries and they were supposed to be under a 14-day compulsory home-quarantine.
From January 2020 to this week, over 6 lakh people came to Bangladesh from different countries.
A local of Chandpur Sadar, who returned home from Iran a week ago, was supposed to stay indoors. But after he was found moving around on the streets, a team from local civil surgeon's office caught him and sent himto home quarantine.
The Chandpur Civil Surgeon's Office sources said a total of 167 people are now in self-quarantine. But most of them did not follow the government's guidelines. They left their homes whenever they had a chance to do so.
Commenting in the matter, Chandpur Civil Surgeon Dr Md Shakhawat Ullah said, "It is true indeed that there was negligence to keep them under aquarantine. But we are very active now, and our officials are keeping the isolated peopleunder a strict supervision."
A local of Shariatpur's Naria Upazila, who recently arrived from Italy, said, "My home is not an appropriate place for self-quarantine. So far, no government officials have visited my home, and provided any support in this regard.
"I know that there is huge possibility ofme spreading coronavirus. Butthere is nothing I can do."
Addressing the matter, Shariatpur'sCivil SurgeonDr Md Abdullah Al Murad said, "This person is not listed, but we are trying to support him."
Meanwhile, local people of Borodulali village under Gournadi upazila in Barishal, pointed outthat an expatriate from Saudi Arabia returnedto the village on March 3.
Responding to query, the expatriate's cousin Lutfar Rahman Sarder said his cousin was first went under the scanner at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, then he came directly to his Borodulali home.
"My brother's health is good so far. As ofTuesday, no government officials have visited his home,"said Lutfar.
Gournadi's UNO Ishrat Jahan said at least five expatriates have been sent to home quarantine in the upazila.
On expatriate who arrived in Dhaka from Italy on March 3, told The Business Standard that after him, his wife and children arrived at the Batajor area under Gournadi, local police and health officers visited his home.
"They did not perform any medical tests on me," said Kabir.
Many people of Saturia in Manikganj have been violating the guidelines of isolation and putting many others at risk of coronavirus infection, said sources.
Mamun Ahmed, a resident of Saturia and a friend of a person who returned from Iran, said, "My friend claims that he is in good health. He is not accepting any of our recommendations. He is also not listed with the local administration.
"Finally, we had to inform the administration ourselves, and they then put him on self-quarantine."
In the meantime, the Manikganj administration fined two people for breaching the quarantine rules. Saturia's UNO Ashraful Alam said the administration is making a serious effortto convince the returnees to stay under self-isolation.
A total of 327 expatriates are currently staying at home quarantine in the district, said Dr Anwarul Amin Akhand, civil surgeon of Manikganj.