It is a matter of grave concern that a new SARS-like coronavirus which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has already been detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea among four people who had visited the province in China. According to AFP, China’s National Health Commission on January 20 confirmed that the virus can be passed between people, sparking fears of a bigger outbreak. Until now, the virus has claimed six lives and the number of cases have jumped to almost 300. Given Bangladesh’s growing trade relations with China, an increasing number of Bangladeshis travel to China on a regular basis. Also, a good number of Bangladeshi students studying in China travel to and from the country, especially during holiday seasons. So, we should be fully prepared to stop the spread of the virus into the country.
While it is good to know that the airport authorities in Dhaka and Chattogram began the screening process of China-returnee passengers to prevent probable outbreak of the virus, we need to make sure that we use all the modern methods of the screening process. We have learnt that a team of IEDCR briefed the physicians working in HSIA for the detection of probable cases. The IEDCR should also be fully prepared as to what to do if symptoms of the disease are found in any passenger. Although no suspected cases were found during the screening in our airports until now, we should be prepared for the worst. Like all the Asian countries that have ramped up measures to block the spread of the virus, authorities in Bangladeshi airports should also ensure mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China and anyone exhibiting signs of fever should be quarantined for 24 hours for monitoring.