Those returning to the country from India will be released from institutional quarantine only upon completing the 14-day quarantine period and testing negative for Covid-19.
The decision was made in an emergency health ministry meeting yesterday, where Health Minister Zahid Maleque termed people's decision to travel to their home districts for Eid "suicidal" after the highly contagious Indian variant was recently detected in Bangladesh.
"Taking advantage of the relaxation of lockdown, moving from one district to another is a suicidal decision," he said.
The health minister said the Indian variant has been killing thousands of people in India and then created a situation of terror in Nepal, and is now found in Bangladesh.
"If people continue moving around recklessly, a situation like [that in] India and Nepal may be created in Bangladesh after Eid," he warned.
The minister also said immediate steps need to be taken so that vehicles from border districts cannot move to other districts.
The health ministry also instructed field officials to send critical patients returning from India to tertiary-level hospitals under police guard to ensure quarantine.
It also instructed that if medical treatment is possible in the district of the land ports, patients returning from India will have to take treatment there, said health officials.
The health ministry held the emergency meeting yesterday with divisional health officials and officials of border districts, including those of Jashore and Brahmanbaria, to analyse the current situation and to contain the transmission of the Indian variant.
"All who came back from India will have to stay in institutional quarantine. After completing the quarantine period, they have to go through [Covid-19] tests and if the results come negative, they will be released from quarantine," Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told The Daily Star yesterday.
He also said a decision was made to scale up testing facilities in the border districts to contain the transmission of the Indian variant.
"After people's arrivals from India, random samples will be collected to see whether anyone is infected with Covid-19. If found, those will be sent for genome sequencing," the DG said.
Khurshid asked the civil surgeons of border districts to ensure proper contact tracing if any Indian returnees were found infected with Covid-19.
The meeting also decided that those who have visas for longer stays in India will be discouraged to return to Bangladesh right now.
"We will request all the ministries concerned to be stricter in limiting the movement between the two countries," Khurshid said.
The concerns have arisen after the double mutant Indian Covid-19 variant made its way to Bangladesh due to a lack of strict enforcement of institutional quarantine for those returning from India.
The government has found eight people infected with the Indian variant and all of them entered the country through the Benapole land port. In the meeting, it was said that the presence of the Indian variant is a matter of serious concern.
Soon after the announcement on Saturday that the Indian variant was detected in the country, the government extended the closure of borders with India -- originally imposed on April 26 -- for 14 more days.
The India variant, known as B.1.617, was first detected in that country in October last year.
It is far more transmissible than previous strains. Very recently, it was reported that the variant has three different subtypes with slightly different genetic mutations.
The subtype, B.1.617.2, found in Bangladesh, appears to spread quicker than the two other subtypes detected by scientists in India.
India's crematoriums and burial grounds have been overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections tearing through the populous country at terrifying speed, depleting the supply of life-saving oxygen to critical levels and leaving patients to die while waiting in line to see doctors, reports AP from New Delhi.