361 Bangladeshis returning home from Wuhan early Saturday

Bangladesh citizens, at least 361, are scheduled to arrive here by a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines from Wuhan city of China, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak, early Saturday.

The flight is scheduled to arrive at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 2am (Saturday), a senior official at the national flag carrier, told UNB on Friday.

The Civil Aviation Authorities of China have given clearance for the special flight that left here for Wuhan at 5:51 pm.

"We're ready to bring back Bangladeshis living there. We've also informed the Chinese government. They've given permission. We can now bring our citizens back," Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at a briefing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

China counted 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213, including 43 new fatalities till Friday morning, reports AP.

The vast majority of the cases have been in Hubei province and its provincial capital, Wuhan. No death has been reported outside China

Shoppers wear face masks as they line up at a grocery store in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. Complicated logistics are part of a daily flow of food and other goods authorities say is sustaining Wuhan and surrounding cities with a total of 50 million people. Most are blocked from leaving in the most sweeping disease-control measures ever imposed. Photo:AP

The Foreign Minister mentioned that the Chinese government has confirmed that no-one of the Bangladeshi returnees has been infected with the virus.

He mentioned that the returnees from Wuhan will be kept at the quarantine unit at Ashkona Hajj camp for a certain period for observation.

"Among the 361 returnees, 18 are family members of Bangladeshi students with two children and the rest are students," Momen said.

Bangladesh will keep those who will return to Bangladesh under observation before China lifts the ongoing 14-day restriction to avoid any risk.

Quarantine is a state, period or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.

Talking to UNB, Deputy General Manager (Public Relations) Tahera Khondoker said the Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight has a capacity of 419 passengers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country.

"Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO," reads WHO directives.

Travelers wearing face masks line up near the Japan Airlines check-in counters at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing.Photo:AP

Preparations by Bangladesh Mission

"We had designated 20 campuses and made 20 student representatives to organise the team of evacuees in batches from 20 universities, colleges and institutes," Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman told UNB.

He said they have designated eight buses and two jeeps on 20 different routes to pick the evacuees from 23 locations.

A table was drawn showing campus-wise drivers, names, cellphone numbers, national ID numbers and vehicle numberplates and have circulated in "Wuhan WeChat Group".

The Embassy has opened another WeChat Group Executive Team Wuhan" with team leaders and representatives of 20 campuses to better communicate with them and organise the evacuation smoothly.

The Embassy is working almost 24/7 over the last nine days to coordinate the whole process of evacuation from sensitisation to implementation, said the Ambassador.

In the process, the Embassy has increased two hotlines on 24/7 basis. Bangladesh diplomats have been assigned to attend those phone calls.

The Foreign Minister on Thursday said the government has planned to bring back 370 registered Bangladesh citizens from Wuhan on clearance from Chinese government

No-one of them has been affected so far by coronavirus but they are likely to be kept at Ashkona Hajj Camp for safety and observation, the minister said.

Earlier in the day, the Foreign Minister said a total of 370 Bangladesh citizens from 22 institutions, mostly from Wuhan city of China, have registered their names expressing their willingness to return home.

But, 15 Bangladesh citizens have opted to stay back in China for better health facilities in China and avoid the risk of transmitting the coronavirus in Bangladesh, said the foreign minister.

Dr Momen said the Chinese authorities informed Bangladesh that they will bear all the expenses of treatment if any foreigners affected by the virus.

The Foreign Minister said the Health Ministry will take care of the returnees upon their arrival in Bangladesh.

He said the Health Ministry has taken necessary preparations to make spaces in hospitals to monitor the returnees from China.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing has opened a hotline number + (86)-17801116005 for Bangladeshis.

There are about 400-500 Bangladeshi students in Wuhan, according to the Foreign Ministry here.

Source: United News of Bangladesh