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Spread of Omicron to 23 Countries

Govt prepared to face new variant

  • Mohammad Al Amin
  • 4 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

The government has taken all necessary preparations to face new coronavirus variant Omicron, which has already spread to more than two dozens of countries in the world.

The health and family welfare ministry sources said the government has strengthened screening in all ports of entry and has been testing samples of the suspected passengers coming from abroad while it has given directives to ensure maintaining health guidelines strictly in a bid to resist Omicron.

“We are already prepared and have strengthened our capacity to fight the coronavirus. At the same time, we have also taken our all-out preparations to face Omicron,” Prof Dr Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general (administration) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.

He said the government already strengthened screening of passengers in all ports of entry while it is checking whether the passengers are vaccinated or not, testing coronavirus and ensuring institutional quarantine of the passengers who are coming from epicentre of the outbreak of omicron.

“We have also asked all hospitals across the country to remain prepared to face any situation of the coronavirus. We have increased oxygen cylinders and central oxygen centres in hospitals. At the same time, we have also increasing other capacity to ensure proper treatment for the patients,” the DGHS official added.

Ahmedul Kabir, also a top medicine expert of the country, said there is no alternative to following health guidelines to prevent the spread of Omicron.

Talking to reporters on Thursday, Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque said, "All are concerned about Omicron. We're also alert but we will not get panicked. We have come to know that the variant spreads rapidly but its symptoms are not severe like the Delta variant."   He said the government will inform media about the Omicron whenever it gets the full report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in this regard. “Till then, we all have to be alert. Many people do not want to take the vaccine, so we urge them to get inoculated.”

The health minister said the local administration is working to trace the 240 people who returned from African countries. "Many people are irresponsible. We know that the returnees left their hotels and visited different places and went to their homes. So we will go for a tougher stance."

He said returnees from the Omicron-hit countries will have to have Covid-19 test reports, done 48 hours prior to departure, while entering Bangladesh.

Prof Dr Tahmina Shirin, director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control &. Research (IEDCR), said no Omicron case has been detected yet in the country.

“Our surveillance has been going on to detect the Omicron infection cases in the country. We have already tested more than 30 samples of passengers who came to the country from South Africa in November but no cases have been detected,” she added.

Dr Tahmina Shirin said the Omicron variant may enter the country anytime as many people arrive in Bangladesh from different countries where the Omicron has already spread.

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron and on November 30, 2021, the US also classified it as a Variant of Concern.

The WHO said it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta.

About the severity of the disease, it said it is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. 

All variants of Covid-19, including the Delta variant, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key, the WHO added.

According to the DGHS, there are 13,534 general beds, 1,215 Covid-19 ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds, 708 HDU (High Dependency Unit) beds, 2,018 High Flow Oxygen Nasal Cannula, 2,332 oxygen concentrator and 118 central oxygen line across the country, including in Dhaka.

The coronavirus infection test is also going on in 848 labs, including 151 RT PCR labs, 57 GeneXpert and 640 Rapid Antigen, at government and private hospitals and diagnostics centres across the country.

The government on November 29 issued 15-point directives on containing the possible spread of Omicron. Health checkup and screening will have to be strengthened at the ports on arrival of passengers here from the Omicron-hit countries, it said.

The guidelines said all types of public gatherings (social, political, religious and others) will have to be discouraged. It asked to ensure all health guidelines, including wearing of facemasks at the outdoors. Wearing face masks must be made mandatory at offices besides maintaining other health rules, it said.

It suggested limiting dining capacity at restaurants, limiting people’s gathering at different places, including tourist spots, recreation centres, community centres, cinema halls and social programmes.