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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

No plan to impose lockdown, close borders over Omicron: Health Minister

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Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said no situation has created in the country to enforce lockdown again.

“All necessary preparations have been taken to deal with the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron. Hospitals in the divisions and districts as well as in the capital Dhaka have already been kept readied. The intensive care units (ICUs) are ready. No worsening situation has appeared in the country over new variant of Omicron that we have to declare lockdown again,” he said while talking to reporters after visiting the under-construction building of Bangladesh Institute of Health Management at Savar on Sunday.

The Health Minister said, “In order to deal with Omicron, we have already held an inter-ministerial meeting. Anyone arriving in Bangladesh from South Africa or other countries, where Omicron cases have been reported, must be tested within 48 hours of the flight departure time and placed in quarantine for 14 days.”

“We have expanded the testing facilities, and built new quarantine centres. In addition, we have advocated for the expansion of quarantine centres in all of the hospitals that we have previously used. Those arriving in the country will be able to stay in quarantine at their own expense,” he said.

Zahid Maleque mentioned that Dhaka airport’s overall system has been strengthened, and that its screening system has recently been improved. In addition, the airport’s testing lab has been expanded from 2,000 square feet to more than 30,000 square feet, he said.

He went on to say, “Our hospitals are prepared. The intensive care units (ICUs) are ready. We’ve sent letters to various offices in all of our districts, requesting that they make preparations. We’re ready to deal with the new variant.”

The health minister said everybody will have to take vaccine to prevent the transmission of Omicron. “Because of it, the vaccination programme has been accelerated. The first dose of vaccine has been injected to some 70 million people, while the second dose has been received by some 40 million people. Besides, booster dose will be given to those whose age is above 60. Some 8,500 nurses and 4,000 doctors have been appointed as part of strengthening manpower in the health sector.”

When asked if the country’s borders would be closed to prevent transmission of Omicron, the health minister said that there were no immediate plans to do so. There is now a border inspection system, a screening system, a test system, and a quarantine system. There does not appear to be a need for border closure or lockdown at this time because the country is good and safe.

The Health Minister urged Bangladeshis living abroad, particularly those in African countries, that it is better if they did not come to the country right now. “Stay where you are if you want to keep your family and country safe,” he said.

State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Enamur Rahman, Director General of Health Services Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, Senior Secretary of Health Services Division Lokman Hossain Mia, Additional Secretary Md Saidur Rahman, Additional Director General of Health Services (Planning and Development) Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, Savar Municipality Mayor Haji Abdul Gani, Savar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mazharul Islam, and Savar Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer Dr Sayemul Huda, among others, were present.

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