Coronavirus Outbreak: 159 under home quarantine in CHT, no adequate preparation


Hill Voice, 28 March 2020, Chittagong Hill Tracts:  The whole world is now at war against the ever pandemic deadliest virus identified as Coronavirus. Patients tested +ve for corona virus have been identified in 199 countries of the six continents. In Bangladesh, the first declaration of identifying patient infected with coronavirus came on 8 March 2020. Up till now, numbers of infected patients are 48 while 5 patients died.

Till writing of this report on 27 March, no corona patient has yet been identified in CHT. But 159 expatriates have been kept under home quarantine state in the three hill districts. Of them, 62 persons in Rangamati, 89 persons in Khagrachari and 8 persons in Bandarban hill districts have been kept under home quarantine observation. Reports of various sources say that 522 expatriates returned back in three hill districts from abroad since global outbreak of coronavirus.

In order to resist coronavirus infection, measures have been taken for mass arousal of consciousness and articulation of instructions, closure of markets and transports including establishment of isolation centers, quarantine measures and implementation lockdown keeping pace with the whole country. But there is allegation of having no proper preparation in all the three hill districts in respects of availability of corona-detection kits or equipment and treatment facilities including personal protection equipment including PPE. Consequently, it is feared that if infection occurs, it may take formidable shape in all the three districts.

Rangamati Hill District:

The Rangamati District Health Department has posted 62 expatriates coming from abroad under home quarantine surveillance. It is learnt that 243 persons returned back using their addresses of Rangamati Hill district since 01 March 2020. Of them, those who have not yet been sent for quarantine, the police are searching for them.

On 21 March 2020, the Mobile Court charged BDT 10,000 from a Saudi-returnee expatriate living in Amanatbag of College Gate in Rangamati town and BDT 2,000 from a Malaysia-returnee expatriate, an inhabitant of Tabalchari in Rangamati town for not complying with home quarantine directives of the government.

The government has declared closure of all the tourism and entertainment centers till further order due to outbreak of coronavirus. All the trade centers including the weekly bazaars have been declared to remain closed affecting from 25 March 2020, till further order.

Khagrachari Hill District:

For prevention of spreading corona infection, 89 expatriates have been put under home quarantine in Khagrachari hill district. But the police and health department have not yet been able to locate out the remaining 166 expatriates coming from abroad. As per the report available from the immigration department, 255 expatriates came back using their addresses of Khagrachari.

A woman who came back from India was kept in isolation in Khagrachari hospital on suspicion of infection with coronavirus. Later on, as finding no existence of coronavirus in her body, she was instantly released.

A Committee for combating coronavirus has been constituted with the Deputy Commissioner as Convener and the Civil Surgeon as the Member-Secretary in Rangamati district.

On 21 March 2020, three persons namely, Jahir Hossain of Manikchari upazila, Sujan Das and Mintu Das of Dighinala upazila were arrested under Digital Security Act for spreading rumors in the Facebook stating death of a person due infection of coronavirus.

One indigenous youth aged 30 who was hospitalized with corona-like symptoms in Khagrachari district hospital died in isolation on 25 March. He is an inhabitant of Nunchari village of Maischari under Mahalchari Upazila of Khagrachari hill district. It was learnt that the youth had been suffering short-breath problems since long. He had received treatment in the hospital earlier. Following death of the youth, five persons including the two doctors who had been in contact were kept in quarantine.

Bandarban Hill District:

In 5 Unions of Naikhyongchari Upazila under Bandarban hill districts, 24 expatriates have been identified to be bearers of the virus. Of them, 8 persons have been kept under home quarantine. Besides, in Thanchi Upazila of Bandarban hill district, 2 indigenous persons returning from abroad have been kept under quarantine on suspicion of corona infection on 19 March 2020. The duos were in Myanmar on pilgrimage in last month. They had landed in Bangladesh on 14 March 2020.

On 24 March 2020, Naikhyongchari, Alikadam and Lama Upazilas of Bandarban Hill District have been locked down to prevent infection of coronavirus as the patients with corona infection have been identified in the adjacent Chokoria Upazila of Cox’s Bazaar District.

Embargo has been imposed upon tourist visit to Bandarban town to prevent corona infection. Authorities related to tourism industry including the authority of tourism and proprietors of hotels and motels have been issued order to close their institutions.

Coordination lacking between Hill District Councils and District Administration:

There is allegation that though the Health Department is a subject already been devolved to the Hill District Councils, the Deputy Commissioners of three hill districts have been unilaterally conducting the anti-corona programs, such as, closure of trade centers, weekly bazaars, transports, imposing embargo on tourism, conscious-raising measures and declaration of lock down etc. without coordination with the Hill District Councils.

On the other hand, the CHT Regional Council, the highest organ of the Special Administrative System in CHT, has not been involved in government programs designed to combat the coronavirus infection. There is an allegation that the District Administration and Hill District Councils have been unilaterally implementing various anti-corona measures sidelining the CHT Regional Council.

As part of battling the corona troubles, in the interest of mass people and as per directives of the government of Bangladesh, a circulation dated 25 March 2020 signed by Devasish Roy, Chief of the Chakma Circle, was issued stating that the Chakma Circle Office in Rangamati will remain closed for an indefinite period, and at least up to 4 April 2020.

It is learnt that many indigenous Jummas who have been working and studying in different cities including Dhaka are returning to their villages in the three hill districts, following public holidays till 4 April, closed educational institutions and, above all, fears of coronavirus infection.

Condition of indigenous people and minorities in plains:

No information of corona infection among the indigenous population living in plains has yet been received so far. Comparatively, indigenous communities are left behind with no access to health services, medical support and reliable information. Especially, they live in inaccessible terrains. Consequently, relief materials including the treatment services and assistance cannot be made available to them. The indigenous people are the population that lag most behind in respects of education and consciousness. In this circumstance, it is feared the outbreak of corona virus will create formidable situation for them.

On 22 March 2020, Advocate Rana Dasgupta, General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council appealed to the government, in case of death due corona infection in hospitals equipped with corona treatment, to arrange sealed and sanitized packing for the dead bodies of patients other than Muslim religion following their respective religious rites & rituals by getting washed and dressed up. The organization has expressed concern over the issue as there has not been taken any measure for the cremation or burying of dead bodies of minority communities.

Government Steps to Prevent Corona Virus Infection:

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the people to follow the directives in appropriate manner while the government is trying hard with all efforts to keep the country free from the killer coronavirus. She gave various counselling concerning consciousness while delivering speech to the nation at 7:30 PM on 25 March 2020. She had an elaborated speech on identification of coronavirus, patients, safety of doctors and nurses and preparation of treatment. Besides, she also spoke on management of markets, safety of low-earning people and of directives how to keep the economy flowing in the on-going situation.

The Prime Minister made a request to the coronavirus infected expatriates arrived from abroad including the persons posted for home quarantine to follow the directives in letter and spirit. She urged to stay for only 14 days in isolation. She said that it is of necessity to abide by the directives for the sake of saving lives of the families, neighbors and people of localities and people of the whole country. The Prime Minister said that it would be easy to prevent the infection by just washing hands with soap frequently. Besides, she also emphasized of maintaining courtesy while sneezing and coughing. She called upon all not to go out without any need.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina further informed that equipment in abundant are being supplied for safety of the health workers and sufficient amount of personal protection equipment is also in the store. She urged not to get confused. The healthcare workers have been given the highest priority in safeguarding them. She said that 13 thousand kits were in store as of 24 March for identification of coronavirus and 30 thousand more kits were to arrive soon. In Dhaka, there is 8 detecting machines. The work for establishing laboratory for examining coronavirus in seven divisions is underway. She requested for not go for spreading rumors and warned that the persons spreading rumors would be severely dealt with.

Due to coronavirus infection, holidays from 29 March to 2 April have been declared. It means, the all the government and non-government offices will remain closed on and from 26 March up to 4 April 2020 including the weekly holidays. However, the vegetables market, law & order forces, hospitals and emergency services will be remained out of the holidays and with this, the army have deployed on 24 March throughout the country. The army will work in coordination with the district administration in measures of maintaining social distance and cautions.

All the shopping malls and shops have been declared shut down from 25 March and onwards. Before this, all schools and colleges have been declared to remain closed till 31 March. The examinations of HSC and its equivalent standard have been postponed. The HSC examination is to be held on 1 April.

In combating the coronavirus, the measures that have been undertaken by the government also include: if any office work that necessitates will have to perform through online. In this regard, it is only they who will feel necessary, will keep their offices open.

The government has further declared that the public transportation will remain limited. The people have been advised to avoid public transport as much as possible. Those who will use public transport on urgency, will use after having sufficient measures against fighting the coronavirus. The driver and helpers will have to use musk and hand gloves. The navigation route has also been declared to remain closed from 25 March forbidding plying of launches, steamers, small boats and all other passenger boats. However, many have left Dhaka ignoring the lock down on 24 March soon after declaration of holidays.

On the other hand, many people went to the mosque to offer prayers at the mosque on March 28, disobeying the government’s rules of praying at home instead of the mosque. The number of prayers in the city area including Dhaka has reduced by half but the number of prayers in the mosque has increased several times in the country, media reports have said. As a result of this, many fear that the risk of coronavirus infection in Bangladesh is increasing manifold.

Global Coronavirus Situation:

In Wuhan town of China, infection of a certain kind of species belonged to Coronavirus appeared on 31 December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) formally identified the virus as COVID-19. As per the information available in the reports till 27 March 2020, over 5,97,262 persons got infected with COVID-19 in more than 199 countries and sub-ordinate regions. Of them, 27,365 persons died and more than 1,33,363 persons recovered. Worryingly, there are 2 deaths worldwide every minute. It is also worrying that 41 health workers who engaged in treatment of corona infected patients die in Italy and 70 percent of health workers suffer from various problems in China.

As on 27 March, the largest death toll of coronavirus infected patients rose in Italy. 9,134 persons died there and 86,498 persons were infected. Spain stands to be the second in position. 5,138 persons died there. As of 27 March, USA occupies the top position in respect of persons infected. The number of infected persons reads 104,205 there. After the US, China stands 2nd with 81,394 persons and Italy stands as the 3rd with 86,498 persons infected. Andrew Coumo, Governor of New York, has said with alarm that infection of coronavirus is spreading in his state speedier than that of a bullet train. The Chief of WHO has mentioned that it took 67 days to get 1 hundred thousand people infected whereas, on the other hand it has taken only 4 days to get 1 hundred thousand people infected.

On 14 March, the WHO declared the Europe to be the new center of coronavirus after China. On 24 March, the WHO, has declared the USA to be another center of coronavirus after Europe. The WHO has said that the USA has become the center of coronavirus after Italy and Spain. Considering the statistics of infected and dead persons, the WHO informs such probability. According to a study, at least 80,000 people in the United States could die in the next four months from a coronavirus attack.

China’s Hubei province has been reopened after two months of lockdown to prevent coronavirus infection. After opening, public life has begun to normalize. However, travel to foreigners is still prohibited.

The neighboring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared lock down for 3 weeks in his speech to the nation for the 2nd time on 24 March. The number of infected persons overreaches 500. To that end, the lock down timing starts at mid-night of 24 March extending up to 15 April 2020. He requested his countrymen to remain at home as where they are.

Prime Minister Modi has said, “Not as the Prime Minister but as a member of your family, I am to declare this. If it is not done, the country will march back to 21 years. Span of 21 days is a long period but your lives are most important to us. I do believe, every Indian will abide by the government order. I do hope, we will soon be able to pass out the crisis.”

Before this, the Prime Minister declared the ‘Janata Curfew’ on 22 March in his first addressing to the nation. Even after ‘Janata Curfew’ lock down was declared in most of the states and central-administered territories.