Bangladeshi nationals living in Singapore are rushing to come back home amidst fears of the coronavirus infection in this island city-state off southern Malaysia.
Many Bangladeshis have already returned home from Singapore over the last week, Reuters news agency reported citing Bangladeshi workers living there.
"A lot of people have gone back [to Bangladesh]," Tariqul Islam, 52, a Bangladeshi shopkeeper in Singapore told Reuters as a few customers wearing masks perused the fruit and vegetables spread outside his shop on Lembu Road in Singapore's Little India neighbourhood.
"When people think about life or family, they don't care about money," he said.
Unease over the virus has gripped groups of migrant workers across Asia who often live in crowded, cramped conditions.
Meanwhile, health staffers in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), however, said they have been observing less passengers somedays, while there is rush on other days like inbound passengers from other countries.
"The airlines are suffering from a shortage of passengers. It is tough to say exactly whether Bangladeshis are returning in bigger numbers than before. However, we see a rush [of passengers] on some days," Dr Shahriar Sajjat, assistant health director in HSIA, who supervises the screening process of the inbound passengers, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Singapore has reported 90 coronavirus cases, including five Bangladeshis who worked at the same construction site. One of the Bangladeshis is in a "very critical condition" and is undergoing treatment in a hospital ICU there, Bangladesh's foreign minister said earlier.
A Bangladeshi in the United Arab Emirates has also been infected.
The virus, SARS-CoV-2, has killed more than 2,600 people in China, where it first surfaced late last year.
Kakon Miyan, a 24-year-old construction worker in Singapore, said many of his friends had returned to Bangladesh, where there have been no reported cases of the virus and will only come back when the situation in Singapore is better.
"We're staying for now, but if the situation worsens then we will go back too," he said.
Another Bangladeshi, Naushad said that many direct flights to Dhaka are full, and so he has to make transit in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and research (IEDCR) director Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora yesterday cautioned fearful reactions towards any specific nationality would hamper the coronavirus patient identification and prevention process.
"Because, these foreigners would avoid local health authorities if they see a threat to their personal and social security," Flora said while speaking to journalists in a regular press conference in her office.
She urged that the hospitality of Bangladeshis to foreigners be maintained.
In the last 24 hours till 3:00pm, a total of 15,808 inbound passengers were screened in air, land and seaports across the country.
No passenger tested positive for coronavirus, according to IEDCR.
So far, IEDCR has tested 83 suspected samples and found all samples coronavirus negative.