A Swedish epidemiologist has said the government needs to take action and explain issues ‘scientifically’ following the ban on Bangladeshis entry to Italy after passengers in a flight found Covid19 positive amid pandemic.
“Bangladesh is not alone. Bangladesh was in the list of 13 countries (Italy banned). So, it's not belittling any country or an issue of embarrassment for any government. We need to deal with it scientifically. We need to take action,” Dr Farhad Ali Khan told Bangladesh Post on Friday.
He is a director epidemiology at AstraZeneca which is working to boost the manufacturing capacity of Covid19 vaccine. AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) to supply up to 400 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, by the end of this year.
Talking with Bangladesh Post on the pandemic prevention and management, Dr Khan spoke on the Italy issue since he is actively engaged with Bangladeshis living in European countries for political affiliation with the ruling party. He is the General Secretary of Sweden Awami League.
The Italy issue drew huge attention as it coincided with the government’s crackdown on Regent Hospitals which were selling fake Covid19 certificates.
“It is not sure whether those who flew to Italy and tested Covid19 positive bought certificates from Regent since there is no evidence of that so far, and you can get the virus even after testing and symptoms can appear after arriving in another country. But getting 70 percent passengers Covid19 positive from a flight is unusual,” he said.
“The government needs to take it seriously. The health ministry can write to all embassies explaining scientifically what can happen or what happened to prevent others to follow. European countries follow each other,” Dr Khan said.
Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Dominican Republic are the other countries who faced similar bans from Italy.
Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said “in order to ensure an adequate level of health protection, direct and indirect flights to and from the countries indicated in the ordinance are also suspended.”
“We cannot allow positive and unmonitored people to come from foreign countries. That is why we have a number of restrictions for countries outside the EU,” he said.
“For example, in the last few days, people have come from Bangladesh and we have found that they are more than 70 percent positive. Their exit had no controls and we were forced to suspend flights from Bangladesh,” the minister said.
Dr Khan said the government needs to start vigorous health screening for the people who are leaving the country also.
“It’s (screening) not for inbound patients only. You need to set up a health desk with doctors, thermal scanners, so that they can check and monitor. Flights need to ensure spaces between passengers. The whole journey needs to be monitored,” he said.
For certificates, he said, if someone tests for a certificate, they must be advised after giving the samples to go for quarantine till their flights.
“After giving samples, if you mix with the public and have a party with your friends and family and then you can get the virus,” he said, “You have to be careful since the pandemic is still ongoing”.
Europe is the main export market for Bangladesh where all products enjoy duty-free quota-free market access. It is also a place for both skilled and unskilled migration.
Over 300,000 Bangladeshis live in Italy where unskilled migration mostly took place. There have been reports that those who returned from Bangladesh during the pandemic did not follow Italy government’s proper quarantine rules. Police also chased many Bangladeshis to ensure quarantine.
Dr Khan said Italy would take all-out measures as they suffered the most from the pandemic.
“Now they are recovering from the devastation. So, at this stage they will not take any risk,” he said.
He also suggested Bangladesh to take measures for infection control as the Eid-ul-Adha which is one of the largest religious festivals in the country will be celebrated at the end of this month.
“It can be a coronavirus party if we don’t take effective measures,” he said. “In this global village, everybody is watching you. So, you cannot hide anything.”
“You have to know what is your problem,” the epidemiologists said, when asked about the coronavirus management in a country.
“But here (in Bangladesh) from the beginning they could not determine the rate of infection. Sweden also could not do it perfectly. In that case, you need to ensure proper health services so that people get treatment when they are sick. Sweden could ensure that (treatment).”
“For Bangladesh, prevention is the key. We need to take measures to avert mass infections,” he said.