Checking Omicron: Decision on travel curbs comes today
A high-powered meeting involving several ministers will sit today to weigh on slapping on yet another international travel ban to keep the new potentially more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus out of Bangladesh.
Fresh directives on the virus curb measures inside the country will be hammered out at the meeting scheduled for 11:00am.
The development comes at a time when the Omicron variant, described as a variant of concern that poses "very high" global risk by the World Health Organisation, is popping up all over the world.
First detected in South Africa, as many as 17 countries have reported cases of the new coronavirus variant at the time of filing the report.
This has prompted several countries to impose a travel ban on passengers from southern Africa.
Closer to home, India has put Bangladesh along with the UK, Europe and 10 countries in the "at-risk" category, meaning passengers arriving from the countries will have to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival in India and quarantine.
If the test result comes back negative, the passenger will follow home quarantine for seven days and subject themselves to re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India. The passengers will self-monitor their health for the next seven days.
If the test result comes back positive, their samples would be sent for genomic testing -- to confirm for Omicron variant -- at India's consortium laboratory network and they would be kept at separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol, including contact-tracing.
Earlier on Sunday, the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 recommended limiting mass gatherings and travel bans on countries where the Omicron variant had spread.
Later in the evening, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) had issued a 15-point precautionary directive to prevent any risk of virus transmission.
The ministers and other high officials will discuss the recommendations from the NTAC and the directives from the health directorate at the meeting today.
In the notice, the DGHS urged everyone concerned to implement precautionary measures in response to the spread of the new Omicron variant in different countries.
The directives include: strengthening the health check-ups and screening at the ports for the passengers coming from Omicron-affected countries including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and the others that are being added to the list.
Besides, all types of mass gatherings (social, political, religious and others) has to be discouraged and ensure everyone maintains health and safety guidelines in all places including educational, religious and official establishments.
Reducing the sitting arrangement in restaurants and the number of participants in all types of gatherings by half or less has been recommended along with ensuring health hygiene at all religious venues and public transports.
The DGHS also directed the health staffers involved in vaccination campaigns to maintain health rules while on duty. While in the office, everyone must wear masks at all times.
It also asked to ensure isolation for persons with Covid-19 symptoms as well as awareness campaigns up to the root levels.
The DGHS has also drawn the attention of all concerned departments of the government to strictly implement the guidelines across the country.