The government will take strict measures to ensure that returning expatriates stay in the quarantine set up to curb the spread of Covid-19 variant Omicron.
"A 14-day quarantine has been made mandatory for the expatriates returning from the African countries. Quarantine was made compulsory earlier too, but many people would run away from the facility without staying there for the prescribed period. This time the government will be strict about that," said the health minister while inspecting the laboratories set up to test the outbound passengers for Covid-19 at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Thursday.
"Many irresponsible people, who do not think about their own country, left the [quarantine] hotels, wandered around, went home. We are going take a tough stance this year. If necessary, we will keep their passports as long as they are in quarantine," said the minister.
The minister said the army, the police and the Directorate General of Health Services will oversee the quarantine. Besides, the government will penalise the hotels if quarantined persons would escape from there.
Expatriates returning from the countries where Omicron has been found must carry a certificate proving that they tested negative for the virus within 48 hours before the flight.
"Everyone is a little worried about Omicron. We are also careful, but we will not panic. As we know, it spreads very fast but shows mild symptoms. The symptoms are not as severe as in Covid-19 Delta cases. We have to be careful and wear masks, which is the biggest tool," said the minister.
Saying that the country currently has four crore vaccine doses, Zahid Maleque urged all to get vaccinated.
The minister also said the government is preparing a plan and a list to provide booster dose to elderly patients with comorbidity.
"About 50% of our target population has been vaccinated. The number of deaths and infections has decreased. As a result, our country's economic activities are going well. Bangladesh has created a good image abroad. There are no sanctions anywhere on Bangladesh," he said.
At present, outbound passengers' samples are being tested at Terminal-2 of Shahjalal International Airport. The authorities concerned are setting up a new testing facility on a 36,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the airport's car park building.
"Once this lab is set up, outgoing passengers will suffer less for testing Covid-19. The new lab can be launched in a few days after the work is completed," said the minister.
3 die of Covid in 24 hours
Bangladesh reported three more deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours till 8am Thursday.
Besides, 261 more people tested positive for the virus during the same period.
The current positivity rate was reported at 1.24% after 21,057 samples were tested across the country.
With the latest additions, the death toll reached 27,986 and the case tally increased to 15,76,827 in the country.