Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque yesterday in parliament demanded that the government investigates into the allegations of negligence in screening of inbound passengers at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to prevent spread of novel coronavirus.
The opposition lawmaker also demanded that the health minister makes a statement in the House under section 300 of the rules of procedure of parliament to assure people of the matter.
Mujibul came up with the demand during an unscheduled discussion in parliament with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.
Citing news based on a Facebook video of a China returnee passenger, Mujibul said passengers had to wait for five hours after arriving at Dhaka airport. There was no doctor to attend to them. Besides, their health check-up was not done, he added.
“After five hours of waiting, they were given documents saying that they have gone through screening at the airport. There were allegations of negligence regarding screening of incoming passengers at the airport. Some passengers went out of the airport without screening at night,” said the opposition lawmaker.
He also said this negligence was in no way acceptable. He demanded the health minister’s attention in this regard and urgent inquiry into the matter.
The novel coronavirus -- the seventh strain of the virus -- was first detected in China’s Wuhan city in December. At least 560 people have died with more than 22,500 confirmed cases around the world as of yesterday. Most of the cases have been reported in China.
On an average, 12,000 passengers land at Dhaka airport daily. All of them have to go through thermal screening and those coming from China are later screened by doctors separately.
In the last 15 days till February 5, around 6,789 passengers from China have been screened at the airport, said doctors.
“The way passengers are being screened at the airport, nobody can guarantee that the virus would not be transmitted. It’s a serious health concern and we should be careful about every minor details,” Prof Saif Ullah Munshi, a virologist, told The Daily Star on February 4.
“It’s basic [protocol] that any passenger suspected of carrying the virus must remain separated from others,” said Prof Saif, chairman of BSMMU’s virology department.
Asked, Dr Shajriar Sajjat, assistant health director at the airport, said, “There is no separate immigration booth for passengers from China. As a result, the purpose of the screening is not being fully met now. We asked our higher authorities to take steps in this regard.”
Meanwhile, health officials at the airport said lack of adequate manpower and other facilities were making it difficult for them to screen inbound passengers.
There are only seven doctors, 10 nurses and 20 staff members assigned by the Directorate General of Health Services, they said.
Yesterday, in his point of order, the JP lawmaker also demanded action against money laundering.
He said stone was being imported in guise of other items and asked the finance minister to look into the matter.