Thousands of Bangladeshi nationals, most of who have returned from abroad, are reportedly in home quarantine for suspected Covid-19 (coronavirus) infections.
However, concerns have been raised over whether the home quarantine initiative is being properly implemented in the country.
District correspondents of the Dhaka Tribune report that most people who have been directed to stay in home quarantine are doing so, but some are still nonchalantly roaming their neighbourhoods.
A complaint regarding the matter has been filed with the local administration in Comilla.
According to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), a total 624,743 people have been screened for coronavirus since January 21. The IEDCR on Sunday said only 2,313 people were in home quarantine.
Subsequently, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora refused to give an update on the number of people in home quarantine, saying it was creating misconceptions among the public.
On Tuesday afternoon, 409 pilgrims who had visited Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah returned to the country and were kept at Ashkona Hajj Camp for medical check-ups. Most of them are likely to be put into home quarantine.
Dhaka Tribune’s Sirajganj correspondent reports that supervision to enforce home quarantine is not evident in the district, despite the government having taken a multilateral plan in this regard.
A number of physicians told Dhaka Tribune that home quarantine was being implemented to buy time for the health system to be prepared.
On condition of anonymity, some of them also questioned why senior physicians of the country who have experience working on SARS, MERS and Ebola control programs are not at the forefront of government programs against coronavirums
Furthermore, the physicians criticized the government for establishing integrated control programs late.
Prof Dr Saif Ullah Munshi of the virology department at BSMMU said home quarantine is the prescribed method of control for the first stage of a pandemic and there is no alternative.
However, in a densely populated country like Bangladesh where most of the people are either uneducated or not health literate, highly scientific matters like home quarantine or home isolation are difficult to ensure, he added.
“Besides, this [home quarantine] is not the ultimate treatment for Covid-19. If anybody thinks it will cure everybody, that is only a dream,” Dr Saif Ullah further said.
Dr Nihad Adnan, associate professor of microbiology at Jahangirnagar University, said home quarantine is a good method of controlling the spread of coronavirus if everyone maintains it.
“This is not as educated a country as Singapore, where they are successfully enforcing home quarantine,” he added.
He also said home quarantine is more important in summer as people go out more, which would increase chances of coronavirus spreading.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, consultant for the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) and former PSO of IEDCR, said the government has decided to put anyone who defies home quarantine into institutional quarantine.
A total 43 people are already in institutional quarantine, according to IEDCR.
DGHS Additional Director General (Planning and Development) Professor Sanya Tahmina Jhora said an integrated control room has been established to monitor and supervise all Covid-19 management issues, including quarantine management.
During a press briefing, IEDCR Director Flora admitted that there have been some breaches of home quarantine in the country.
“Home quarantine is being enforced as per advice from the World Health Organization. The government will be strict if they find frequent breaches, and those who breach home quarantine will be put into institutional quarantine,” she said.
Hasan Al Javed, Mamun Abdullah, and our correspondents from Narayanganj, Barisal, Chandpur, Comilla, Gazipur, Dinajpur, Jessore, Khagrachhari, Madaripur, Manikganj, Natore, Panchagarh, Rangpur, Satkhira, Khulna, Narsingdi, Moulvibazar and Rajbari contributed to this report