The health ministry yesterday issued fresh home-quarantine guidelines for enforcement countrywide
Rashedul Hasan (not real name) returned from Italy, the second worst coronavirus-hit country, eight days ago. He stayed in Dhaka for six days before going home to Naria upazila in Shariatpur.
He was not put on self-quarantine although the health ministry's Naria upazila committee was supposed to do it.
Rashedul now is living with his family and moving around freely, oblivious to the fact that his movements might transmit the deadly virus among the local population.
Rashedul yesterday boasted, "I am more conscious than any other person in Bangladesh. I am totally well. Why shall I maintain the [government] rules for self-quarantine?"
When asked whether he might spread coronavirus in his area, Rashedul said, "I know myself. No one needs to take care of me." He also acknowledged that he had no connection with any government official from his upazila.
But Naria Upazila Nirbahi Officer Joynti Rupa Roy claimed that all expatriates who had come back from abroad had been sent to home-quarantine in the upazila.
"There are 75 people in self-quarantine in Naria. We are trying to make them follow government directives," she said.
But Md Hafizur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Naria police station, said the returnees did not follow the rules for self-quarantine properly.
Shah Newaz Rana, a friend of Rashedul, told reporters that his friend had not disclosed to him that he had returned from Italy.
More than 94,000 Bangladeshi expatriates came back from different coronavirus-hit countries in the past one week. They were supposed to have been on a 14-day compulsory home-quarantine.
But in reality, most returnees are breaching the government directives. The government said only 2,314 returnees are now in home-quarantine around the country while only four persons are in institutional quarantine. Another 44 returnees have been placed in Gazipur for quarantine.
Meanwhile, the 312 Bangladeshi expatriates who came back from China's Wuhan in February have already left Ashkona Hajj Camp in Dhaka.
Against this backdrop, the government again issued a set of fresh rules regarding home-quarantine yesterday.
Earlier, the government warned the returnees of being imposed with fines and even jail sentences if they did not follow the guidelines issued, in the first instance, by the health ministry. But that did not work.
Like Rashedul, another youth also came back home from Italy a few days ago. He stayed at Shaheed Abdur Rab Residential Hall of Chittagong University and moved around the campus for several days.
When some students identified him yesterday, they called the university proctorial body. Finally, the youth was placed in self-quarantine at his home in Brahmanbaria.
Another youth returned from Spain five days ago and went home to Chandpur. He too was seen moving around without even wearing a mask.
When asked about it, he said people disturbed him for no reason. "I am not coronavirus infected. So, do not disturb me."
Boishakhi Barua, upazila nirbahi officer of Chandpur's Hajiganj upazila, said people did not maintain self-quarantine rules. "We are trying our best to discharge our duties."
More than 1,000 expatriates, who returned to Chandpur from countries more or less hit by the coronavirus, were supposed to stay in self-quarantine.
Dr Md Ahsanul Haque, civil surgeon of Narayanganj, acknowledged that people put on self-quarantine were reluctant to maintain health ministry rules.
"Today, I received many allegations of a breaching of the guidelines," he said, adding that action would be taken against those who violated instructions.
Prof Dr Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad, director general (health), told The Business Standard on Sunday that upazila level committees had been formed to supervise the overall situation, including self-quarantine, regarding possible coronavirus patients.
"Upazila level officials will be responsible if any rules are broken," he said.
Obviously, there is a huge possibility of the virus spreading if the returnees do not follow the self-quarantine rules, he added.
Fresh directives for home-quarantine
For proper home-quarantine countrywide, the upazila committees will have to ensure that the following directives are implemented:
1. The quarantined person will not move out for 14 days and will stay in a separate room at his home.
2. Family members will have to ensure the returnees' self-isolation.
3. The upazila committees will mark out the houses of returnees and supervise their quarantine.
4. The committees will involve local public representatives in this regard.
5. Relatives and friends will not be allowed to come in contact with the quarantined people.
6. If anyone violates the rules, legal action will be taken against him/her under the Contagious Diseases Act 2018.