More than 20,000 quarantine facilities stand idle while thousands are released into home quarantine
If government wishes to ease the current lockdown while at the same time keeping in check the spread of coronavirus, there is no alternative to ensuring quarantine in facilities fitted out and dedicated to this purpose, according to a wide range of experts in the country.
According to the integrated control room of DGHS, along with five institutional quarantine facilities for foreign returnees, some 615 centres have been prepared across the country for this purpose, that will be able to provide quarantine facilities for a total of 30,955 people.
However, as of April 30, only 9,274 people had been put in the dedicated quarantine facilities prepared by the government, out of whom 5,968 remain while 3,306 have been released.
Approximately another 6,000 patients were in home quarantine for their treatment as of April 30, DGHS control room sources confirmed.
Currently, only people returning from abroad, returning to their native village from Dhaka and Narayanganj, and those who are found breaching home quarantine are kept in facility quarantine, Dhaka Tribune was informed by several civil surgeons.
Additional Director General of DGHS Professor Dr Nasima Sultana at the daily virus briefing on Friday said those who are kept at the quarantine centres are not infected. The facilities are for individuals who have potentially been exposed to the virus and so they are kept isolated there.
As soon as the quarantine period of 14 days ends, if they show no symptoms they are released without being tested, she added.
The release certificates are given by the respective upazila health and family planning officers or by a local committee formed for overseeing the process.
In Dhaka city DGHS provides the release certificate to the quarantined patients.
There is still time
The country has still time to prevent Covid-19 from wreaking further havoc through implementing interventions such as facility quarantine on a priority basis.
Experts have emphasized on ensuring institutional quarantine rather than home quarantine and have further advised that all those who are exposed to risk by coming into contact with an infected person be included.
However, the government view in this regard is far less stringent.
Public health expert Professor Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed suggests that for an effective intervention to stop the spread of coronavirus, institutional quarantine would be much more useful to isolate possible cases from the general population.
Former WHO regional advisor Professor Dr Muzaherul Huq said along with those who enter the country from abroad, all those who have come into contact with a potentially infected person should also be brought into facility quarantine.
“Some 8,000 people have already been infected and one person at first hand could [on average] infect three more. So the number of people kept under facility quarantine would be at least 24,000 excluding the returnees. But current status is nowhere near to it.”
Following the bad reputation surrounding facility quarantine Prof Muzaherul advised that their management should be handed over to the Bangladesh army, if necessary,
When questioned as to why over 20,000 quarantine facilities remain unused, media cell chief of Ministry of Health and Family Planning, additional secretary Habibur Rahman reiterated his confidence in the government's strategy of permitting home quarantine for all except foreign returnees and those visiting a place from Dhaka and Narayanganj.