A total of 312 Bangladeshis returned from Wuhan on Saturday. Ten have been hospitalised with fever
The "dirty" environment of the Ashkona hajj camp's quarantine station has annoyed the Bangladeshis who have been kept there on their return from Wuhan – the Chinese centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Many of them expressed concern over the possibility of their getting infected by coronavirus because they have been crammed together into dormitories 5, 6, 7 and 8 on the third floor of the camp, which is also swarming with mosquitoes.
They are also unhappy over the quality of food they are being given.
Health experts voiced concern by saying that keeping all the returnees together is "risky" for them.
With 312 Bangladeshis on board, including 15 children, a special flight of Bangladesh Biman reached Dhaka at 11:55am on Saturday from Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province. Bangladesh brought them back amid global concern over the deadly Coronavirus.
Eight of the passengers were sent to a local hospital because they had fever. The rest were taken to the Ashkona hajj camp in Dhaka's Uttara area by eight air-conditioned buses of the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation. They will have to live for a 14-day quarantine period in the camp.
Quarantine means restricting the movement of people in case they develop a disease, become infectious and spread it to others. This usually entails keeping the group separate and isolated from the general public.
However, the returnees said they feel they are still at risk of being infected by coronavirus even after reaching their homeland.
"The environment at the dormitory is very bad. There are mosquitoes, and the place is dirty. We may fall ill if we stay here," said Mohiuddin Hasan Minhaz, one of the returnees.
Minhaz, born in Cumilla, got admitted to Wuhan University of Science and Technology in 2018. He is a fourth semester student at the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. A total of 130 Bangladeshi students of the same university were brought back in the same flight.
Minhaz said they had already suffered in the cold weather at Wuhan airport because the Bangladesh-bound flight had been delayed four times.
"It took five hours to complete immigration and checking. And the Biman flight finally took off at 8am on Saturday even though it was scheduled to leave at 11:45pm Friday," he said.
Inshihab Sharif, 37, another Bangladeshi returnee, echoed Minhaz. He said they had to pass through the Chinese government's strict security checks. "We also had to undergo several health check-ups. But now we are very frustrated after reaching Bangladesh."
However, he expressed gratitude to the government for rescuing them from a "terrible situation" in China.
"But after coming back, we are more worried because we have been kept together in a room. We have to live in this dirty place with mosquitoes.
"The symptoms of coronavirus do not manifest before 14 days after infection. If anybody is infected here, others may be infected as coronavirus spreads from human to human," he said.
He also claimed that males and females have not been kept separate, and that he has to live with over 60 people in a single room.
"The media told us that China has been keeping each person separate [in the quarantine station], but we have all been kept in one room. We have been given bananas and bread – a diet meant for hajj pilgrims when they stay at this camp," he added.
Inshihab Sharif, who is from Sirajganj sadar, is pursuing a PhD at Wuhan university.
Prof Nazrul Islam, a former vice chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said, "We are yet to identify if any of the returnees are already infected with coronavirus. It is risky to keep them together in such a situation."
"Moreover, anyone who is diagnosed with the infected should be immediately isolated from the others."
However, Prof Mirzadi Sebrina, the director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said necessary measures have been taken to keep the Bangladeshis safe.
She said, "We have arranged mosquito nets for them and the dormitory is being cleaned further.
"We are trying to make their stay and the food in the camp safe. Anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus will be separated from the others."
The IEDCR has been monitoring and controlling the whole issue of coronavirus in Bangladesh. It has been collecting information through four hotlines.
At Dhaka airport, they have been providing the passengers returning from China with a card with information on what they should do and necessary contact numbers.
Prof Dr Abul Kalam Azad, the director general of the Health Directorate, told a press briefing on Saturday that the returnees have been kept in a good environment in separate beds with separate identification numbers.
He also said males and females have been kept separate in the camp.
"If any of them falls ill, he or she will be separated and quarantined, or sent to hospital if necessary.
"But if many fall ill at the same time, they will be transferred to special isolated wards at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and the Infectious Diseases Hospital," Prof Kalam said.
The army has also been brought in to provide security, alongside the law enforcing agencies.
The Health Directorate's director general said 361 Bangladeshis wanted to return to the country, but only 316 were ready to do so at this time. Four people were found to have fever at Wuhan airport, so, finally only 312 returned home.
8 hospitalised with fever after arriving from China
Meanwhile, seven of the Bangladeshis who returned from Wuhan on Saturday have been taken to the capital's Kurmitola General Hospital and three to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) with high fever.
"Seven of the returnees were found to have high body temperature after initial screening at the airport, so they were rushed to the Kurmitola General Hospital," said Shahriar Shajjad, the health officer at Shahjalal International Airport Dhaka.
Director Brigadier Jamilur Reza of the Kurmitola General Hospital told The Business Standard, "Seven Bangladeshis, who returned from Wuhan, have been taken to the hospital with fever and cough. They have been kept in an isolation centre."
"Our team that is treating them is using protective measures. We hope none of the patients will be diagnosed with coronavirus," he added.
Apart from these seven, a woman was taken to the Combined Military Hospital with fever and cough.
"Saliva of the eight patients will be collected and sent for test today [Saturday]," ASM Alamgir, the principal scientific officer of the IEDCR, said.
Meanwhile, two more Bangladeshi citizens were not allowed to board the Dhaka-bound plane as they had high temperature. So they were left at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport.
The coronavirus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to many Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. It has also spread to the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and India.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 259 people so far in China, to be a global emergency as cases spread to more than 18 countries.