312 Bangladeshis return home from coronavirus-stricken Wuhan

Publish: 7:35 PM, February 1, 2020 | Update: 7:35:PM, February 1, 2020

DHAKA,  – The Biman Bangladesh Airlines special flight carrying 312 Bangladeshis reached here at 11.53am from Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of deadly coronavirus.

“The flight BG-7002 operated by Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) at 11:53am,” said Deputy General Manager (PR) Tahera Khondoker.

The authorities shifted 312 Bangaldeshis—297 are adult, 12 are children and 3 are infants—to Ashkona Hajj Camp directly from the airport, where they will be kept under observation for next 14 days.

The special flight with 15 crew members and four physicians was departed HSIA for Wuhan around 6pm on Friday.

“Those who are coming are not sick, but we don’t want to take any risk,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said at a joint press briefing with Health Minister Zahid Maleque at HSIA

Since the outbreak of the virus, he said, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was worried about the fate of Bangladeshi citizens specially the students residing in China while she had directed the foreign ministry to initiate steps to bring back those Bangladeshis who are ‘willing to return’.

“Earlier, the china government told us that they would not allow anyone to leave Wuhan before 14 days …. but last night they informed us that they
managed a pocket to send our nationals (on Friday night),” he said.

After getting Chinese approval, the foreign minister said they informed the matter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and “Right away, she told us to take the opportunity to bring them (Bangladeshi citizen) back.”

Momen said the health ministry has already taken all arrangements at the Hajj camp to make the returnees quarantine. “They will be under observation and examined. When they are diagnosed as virus free, we will let them go after 14-days,” the minister said.

Currently, he said the foreign ministry only concentrates on those who are stranded in locked down Wuhan city. “We hope, we don’t need to bring back those Bangladeshis who are residing in other parts of China,” he added.

He said Bangladesh has no plan to suspend flight operation to China like some other countries. “We don’t have any direct flight to Wuhan … we are
not suspending flight operation (to China), but we discourage our people to travel to China this moment.

Echoing that no one will be allowed to leave the hajj camp before 14 days,the health minister requested the relatives of the returnees not to
gather at the camp in the next 14 days to see their dear ones.

The health minister said they have enough manpower comprising Directorate General of Health and Army medical core to manage the situation. He said the health ministry has already prepared a treatment protocol as per guideline of World Health Organization (WHO) to manage the situation.

“We have already published a booklet regarding the treatment protocol and distributed it to all government and private hospitals across the country,”
he added.

Earlier, the foreign minister said fifteen Bangladeshi students informed the Beijing mission that they don’t want to return home to avoid any
possibilities to transmit the disease in Bangladesh.

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the new coronavirus, as China reported Friday the death toll had climbed to 213 with nearly 10,000 infections.