Coronavirus Outbreak

China returnees going through ordeals

Mohammad Al Amin

23 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

People returning from China and some other countries face sufferings including social stigma due to Covid-19 that has spread over at least 25 countries of the world. 

“Already some undesired incidents took place. A mother died hearing the rumor of Covid-19 infection of her son. The China returnees are also facing disrespectful behaviour from different corners. Incidents like not renting out flats to China returnees have taken place,” Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the IEDCR, told daily sun.

Mentioning that those who have returned from China are not infected with coronavirus, she said to return from China doesn’t necessarily mean that someone caught the viral infection but a group is trying to spread rumour about the decease.

“If the people who are being socially embarrassed and humiliated after returning from China or Singapore, they may hide their infection of Covid-19 virus. We are asking not to spread rumor and humiliate them,” Dr Flora said on Thursday. 

The IEDCR chief said the 312 returnees from China have completed their two weeks in quarantine. They have already returned to their homes. However, they were asked to remain alert for another 10 days.

Mentioning that they have tested samples of 77 suspected Covid-19 infected people, she said no corna virus infection has been detected in Bangladesh.

According to the sources of people who have returned to Bangladesh from China, Singapore and some others countries recently where the outbreak happened, personal and social safety of them are now at risk in some cases in the country.

Belal Chowdhury, commissioner of Benapole Customs in Jashore on February 20 posted on Facebook the photograph, identity and address of a passenger of Bandhan Express from Kolkata, saying the passenger was infected with coronavirus.

After the passenger was cleared by health officials, the customs official edited his post to reflect the update, but did not remove the identifying documents. He, however, removed the post later in the day.

This was a violation of passenger’s privacy and resulted in a strong reaction from health officials while the post also generated rumor and panic on social media.

“Breaching the privacy of any passenger is not only unethical, but also a violation of the service rule on maintaining secrecy which is mandatory for all government officials,” Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) said in her reaction.

She also said IEDCR is the only institution of the government of Bangladesh which has capacity to confirm Covid-19 infection and disclose the matter.

Earlier, police escorted two students in Habiganj and Barguna, who have recently returned from China. They were taken to hospitals and isolated recently as panic gripped the local people that the students might have contracted coronavirus.

Locals and hospital sources said the coronavirus rumor spread in the two districts and the relevant union council chairman in Barguna wrote to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer that the student was infected with Covid-19.

After police led the students to hospital, the IEDCR asked the administration to rein in rumors and consult IEDCR or health directorate before taking any China or Singapore returnees to hospital.

“Personal and social safety are now at risk for some China and Singapore returnees. Sometimes, the administration is also applying forced behaviour on China and Singapore returnees. Rumour and forced behavior will create obstacle to detect Covid-19 patient and the suspected patients will also hide their information,” Prof Sabrina said.

According to the IEDCR chief, around 76,769 people were infected in Covid-19 across the world while the virus has spread so far in 26 countries of the world.

“Some 2239 people died of the disease in the world. Of them, eight people died of the virus infection outside China,” she added.

According to the IEDCR, all passengers entering the country through ports including the airports were being screened while suspected passengers quarantined and tested. Those who carry symptoms and return to their homes are requested to stay in home quarantine for 24 days.

If anyone has symptoms of coronavirus like fever, coughing or breathing difficulty after returning home should go to hospital, the health directorate said.

According to the media reports, the overall confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland had reached 76,288 by the end of Friday, and 2,345 people had died of the disease. The commission added that 5,365 people were still suspected of being infected with the virus.