Bangladesh detects 8 more cases of Indian COVID variant

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The deadly Indian variant of COVID-19 has been detected in eight more cases in Bangladesh on Monday, though none has a travel history to India, according to official sources on Tuesday.

With the newly infected, the total number of cases of the Indian strain in Bangladesh stands at 31.

All latest cases have been reported from the country’s southwestern border district of Jessore, nearly 200 kilometers (124 miles) off the capital Dhaka.

Most of the Indian variant cases have been detected from some other frontline districts, prompting Dhaka to close land borders with its neighbor that shares more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) common land boundary.

In view of the worsening situation of the coronavirus in India, Bangladesh closed the land borders with the country on April 26 that has been extended several times, including the latest extension till June 14.

The overcrowded South Asian country of 165 million people has also extended the nationwide lockdown till June 6 in the wake of continuous reports of virus cases. So far, the total virus-related fatalities have reached 12,619 while cases crossed the 800,000 mark.

Except for the movements of cargoes carrying goods, all travels between the two South Asian neighbors through land borders have been strictly restricted.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Dr. A. S. M. Alamgir, the principal scientific officer of the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research, said there was no alternative of strict implementation of the health guidelines to stem the spread of the virus, including the Indian variant.

“The government has already put strict restrictions on people's movement between Bangladesh and India. It’s a good initiative,” he said, adding that the informal movement of people must be checked.

He also noted: “A good number of people of both Bangladesh and India travel to each other's countries through informal channels that have no official records. In the period of this global pandemic and report of Indian variant, the Bangladesh government must take stricter measures to stop all sorts of informal travels.”

Recalling the already detected Indian variant, he urged all to be alert so that it does not spread due to unnecessary and unhealthy movement of people.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday told journalists that the government is planning to impose a harder lockdown in the districts bordering India soon.

Citing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he added: “It is a matter of concern for us that coronavirus transmission is being intensified in the bordering districts.”

Amid the ongoing critical pandemic situation, the first consignment of 100,600 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine reached Bangladesh Monday night. Referring to the first shipment, the US Embassy in Dhaka in a statement on Tuesday said: “This shipment was made possible through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a global initiative to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores that no nation can act alone against a global pandemic. The United States, Bangladesh, and global partners are working closely together to combat this pandemic,” said US envoy in Dhaka Earl Miller.

Bangladesh will also buy COVID-19 vaccines from China and is working on co-production of the vaccines locally in collaboration with China and Russia to fight the pandemic.