The government has started weighing its preparedness to tackle a potential novel coronavirus spread, as the virus has continued spreading to a number of countries Bangladesh has close communications with.
High-ups from different organisations concerned yesterday held a meeting at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in Dhaka.
"There is no infection in the country yet; but we are concerned as many countries outside China are reporting high numbers of infection. We are preparing every detailed plan for any situation," Prof AK Azad, director general of DGHS, who chaired the meeting, told The Daily Star.
Chiefs of different organisations including the Department of Drug Administration, Dhaka Medical College, Army Medical Services, World Health Organization (WHO), and the US Center for Disease Control attended the meeting, among others.
The DGHS boss said he would discuss recommendations of the meeting with the health minister today, so the minister could coordinate it with the Prime Minister's Office and other government organisations.
Sources said the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research (IEDCR) has drafted a preparedness plan in case there is an outbreak. According to the plan, the government would stay prepared for three levels of crisis: alert, serious and emergency.
About the plan, Prof Azad said, "It is not final yet; we would discuss and finalise it in meetings with ministries and organisations concerned soon."
So far, the virus has infected more than 80,000, killing at least 2,700 in more than 30 countries, mostly in China.
Iran, South Korea, Singapore and Italy, which have close communications with Bangladesh, have reported infections at alarming levels.
"Many countries have locked down cities. If we need to do so, we would require decision from the top level of the government. Today's [Tuesday] meeting is to define those measures," Prof AK Azad said.
STILL NO PLACE FOR QUARANTINE
Although experts welcomed the response from the government, they pointed out a major loophole in the preparedness to tackle such a crisis.
"The government is doing well based on its capacity. However, there is a big gap: there is no ideal quarantine place to keep suspected patients," Prof Nazrul Islam, former VC and a virologist of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Daily Star last evening.
He opined that the government should plan for not only the crisis from novel coronavirus, but also increase capacity for any such outbreak in future.
Meanwhile, five Bangladeshi nationals affected with coronavirus are still undergoing treatment in Singapore. Of them, one is in ICU.
Another infected Bangladeshi national in the United Arab Emirates is also undergoing treatment.
A South Korean national was tested corona negative yesterday, and released from Kurmitola General Hospital.