With the tally of coronavirus patients in the country growing every day and majority of confirmed cases being in Dhaka, the two city corporations appear to be all at sea regarding overseas returnees that are living in the capital.
With six new cases yesterday, 39 people so far have been confirmed infected with the virus, four of whom have died. The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) on Monday said of the 33 infected cases till that day, 15 were from Dhaka.
However, it took two weeks for the home ministry since the first case was detected in the country, to instruct the two city corporations to find the overseas returnees in the capital.
The ministry sent letters on March 21 to Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) to take action to quarantine about 3,732 people (1,240 in DSCC and 2,492 in DNCC) who came to Dhaka from abroad since March 1, sources confirmed.
However, the home ministry documents show that over 33,000 people flew back to Dhaka between March 1 and March 21.
The chief health officer of DNCC said they could find only 31 persons on their list, while the CEO of DSCC said they just begun looking for the returnees through its ward committees yesterday.
Contacted, councillor of DSCC ward-42 (Wari) Sarwar Hasan Alo said four people in his ward came from India two days ago. "I have asked them not to leave their homes. I even made announcements through the loudspeaker of mosques to make people aware of it, but they paid no heed," he said.
"Even today they went to the mosque," said the ward councillor.
Besides the four, a total of 10 persons came from abroad in the ward, but they too did not follow quarantine properly, DSCC sources said.
Asked about it, Sarwar said, "Those 10 persons have already completed their 14-day quarantine period."
Shahab Uddin, a resident of the area and a banker by profession, said, "What's the point of all this now? The returnees have already mingled in the community for long enough!"
DSCC Chief Executive Officer Shah Md Imdadul Haque said they have formed committees and engaged councillors of all 75 wards to find the returnees.
"They will go to the returnees' residences and ask them to restrict their movement within their homes," he said adding neighbours will also be made alert as they could not mingle with others.
DNCC councillor for ward-21 (Badda) Masum Goni said there are fifteen returnees from abroad in his ward. "We could trace only three of them. One returned from India, one from Canada and another from Nepal," said Masum.
Masum said he has sent his staff to find the other 12 persons.
DNCC Chief Health Officer Brig Gen Mohammad Mominur Rahman Mamun said they received the list only on March 21, and thus did not have a lot of time to act yet. "We're strictly monitoring whether the 31 returnees are following quarantine," he said.
"Some people could not be found on their mentioned address," he added.The Daily Star repeatedly tried to reach Senior Secretary of home ministry Mostafa Kamal Uddin over phone for comments, but he rejected the calls.