The Financial Express

Slack quarantine at land ports poses major risk

Large number of incoming BD nationals using Benapole

Doulot Akter Mala and Tanvir Mohsin | Published: April 09, 2020 08:18:54 | Updated: April 09, 2020 12:41:11

- Collected/ UNB - Collected/ UNB

The number of inbound passengers from India through Benapole land customs stations has increased significantly in recent days, thus, heightening the risk of coronavirus spread further, said officials and local people.

Since March 26, some 800 Bangladesh nationals entered through Beanpole check-post, the country's largest land-port, according to customs data.

"According to the available sources, I came to know that more 3,000 passengers might be entering the country through the port in the coming days," said Benapole Customs House Commissioner Md Belal Hossain Chowdhury.

Mr Hossain said those inbound passengers are supposed to stay in quarantine for 14 days under the supervision of the local administration.

Some of the passengers have been identified in recent times as corona- infected.

Other officials of the customs house expressed their doubt about effective lockdown or quarantining of the inbound passengers.

Many of the passengers are moving openly, and even visiting physicians in the capital, hiding information of their tour abroad.

Dr Shaiful Hassan Shameem, radiation oncologist of National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital, said a patient recently sought his appointment over phone to visit him in the institute, located at Mohakhali in the city.

"The patient came from India through Benapole land-port three days ago, and was supposed to stay in quarantine for 14 days."

It is really risky for doctors, patients and commoners, if people hide their information of visiting foreign countries, he added.

Currently, there are some 30 active land customs stations between India and Bangladesh for facilitating movement of passengers and goods.

Bangladesh government, on March 26, declared general holidays until April 4 to check the pandemic. The holidays was later extended until April 14 next.

Despite the lockdown and holidays, many people are coming to Bangladesh from India through the land-ports, customs officials said.

The land ports are - Benapole, Bhomra, Banglabandha, Hili, Burimari, Roumari, Darshana, Nakugaon, Tamabil, Sheola and Akhaura.

The Ministry of Health, in early February, ordered screening of all people coming to Bangladesh from India through Benapole land-port for detecting coronavirus infection.

Usually, 8,000-10,000 people use the land-port every day, and about 12 per cent of them are foreigners.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, on March 22, banned entry of foreign nationals through the country's land-ports to prevent transmission of coronavirus.

However, the ministry has issued an instruction, under which all Bangladeshi citizens can enter the country from India.

A senior official of the ministry said the inbound passengers from India, who arrived in the country on April 5 and onwards, have to stay in institutional quarantine.

He further said the lockdown becomes ineffective, if immigration authority allows free movement of passengers through ports.

Nazrul Islam Khan of Imon Enterprises, a clearing and forwarding agent in Benapole, said according to his information, a large number of people will arrive in the country in the next two days through the port.

Benapole correspondent of the FE said stranded Bangladeshis in Kolkata and other areas of West Bengal are coming through the port.

Benapole check-post immigration police in-charge (OC) Mohsin Ali said 51 Bangladeshis have entered the country through Benapole port on Wednesday. They have come in small groups under special arrangements.

Dr Habibur Rahman, health officer in Benapole Immigration, said the passengers have been sent to institutional quarantine at community centre of Benapole municipality for 14 days.

Some 284 Bangladeshis arrived through Benapole check-post in the last five days.

Until Wednesday, some 20 people have died of COVID-19 infection in Bangladesh, while the number of affected is 218. The outbreak in India is also deteriorating fast. As of April 8, some 149 people died there, and 5,194 were infected.



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