Bangladesh to screen travellers from China at airports for deadly coronavirus

  • Obaidur Masum and Golam Mujtaba Dhruba, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-01-21 02:49:59 BdST

The authorities have put the airports on alert to prevent deadly coronavirus from spreading in Bangladesh by screening travellers from China where the number of patients has more than tripled in days and a third person has died.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research or IEDCR has in a letter asked the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh to act to avoid the possible risk related to the Chinese virus, Meerjady Sabrina Flora, a director at the institute, told bdnews24.com on Monday.

The government’s disease wing has also trained health workers at the airports for detection of patients with symptoms of coronavirus infection, which include fever, coughing and difficulty with breathing, she said.

“We are closely monitoring the matter…We are alert and prepared,” she added.

The measures to prevent a possible spread of the virus include screening travellers from China by using thermal scanner to detect fever, according to Flora.

The travellers from China will be given health cards and asked to contact the IEDCR if they have fever within 14 days from arrival.

The IEDCR has also alerted the three airlines that operate direct flights from China. Those ferrying passengers from China via other countries have also been contacted, Flora said.

The travellers from China will have to fill in the health cards with certain information, AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, a director at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, said.

If any traveller is found with temperature higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he or she will be kept in an observation room at the airport, according to Ahsan.

The traveller will be shifted to the Kurmitola General Hospital if necessary, he said.

The airport authorities were also displaying symptoms of coronavirus infection on digital boards to raise awareness, Ahsan added.

Tourist line-up in a health control at the arrival section at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Thailand, January 19, 2020. Thailand confirmed two cases of coronavirus from China the previous week. Reuters

Tourist line-up in a health control at the arrival section at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Thailand, January 19, 2020. Thailand confirmed two cases of coronavirus from China the previous week. Reuters

China confirmed 217 new cases of the virus until 6pm local time on Monday. They included 198 in Wuhan, from where the virus has spread to other cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai.

Four patients have also been detected outside China after travelling from the country.

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-03 outbreak that had also emerged in China.

The World Health Organisation said on Monday "an animal source" appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some "limited human-to-human transmission" occurred between close contacts.

WHO later convened an emergency committee for Wednesday to assess whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency and what measures should be taken to manage it, Reuters reported.

So far, the global health body has not recommended trade or travel restrictions, but a panel of independent experts could do so or make other recommendations to limit spread.

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered.