Bangladesh has joined other nations around the world in suspending flights from Europe in desperate efforts to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
In a late-night announcement on Saturday, the government said it would bar air passengers from all European countries, except Britain, for two weeks due to the coronavirus, with more than 138,000 people worldwide infected and more than 5,000 dead.
Bangladesh also banned visas-on-arrival for all countries for the same period.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, flanked by Health Minister Zahid Malik and State Minster for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, made the announcement from a media briefing at state guesthouse Padma in Dhaka on March 14 night. The decisions will be effective from March 15 midnight, Momen said.
“Like the others, we won’t allow passengers from these countries as the World Health Organisation has declared Europe the new epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.
The government will also ban entry from the countries that have banned arrivals from Bangladesh, according to the minister.
They include India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
The Bangladeshi students in India will not be allowed to enter Bangladesh over two weeks, he said, responding to a query.
Momen reiterated that all the returnees from the coronavirus-hit countries must remain in self-quarantine for two weeks.
Shahriar said cargo flights and courier services will continue normally.
Meanwhile, two more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Bangladesh, taking the total number of COVID-19 patients reported in the country to five.
One of the new patients is a returnee from Germany while the other is from Italy, Health Minister Zahid Malik said.
The government came under intense pressure to shut schools across the country. Social media was blaze with comments criticising the government for still keeping the schools open.
BORDERS CLOSED AROUND THE WORLD
Countries around the world on March 14 continued to close borders, impose strict entry and quarantine requirements and restrict large gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.
Colombia said it will close its borders with Venezuela and stop visitors who have been in Europe or Asia, while a US ban on entry for most people from continental Europe was due to start midnight March 13, Reuters reports.
The WHO says Europe has become the pandemic’s current epicenter after reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of world combined, apart from China where the coronavirus originated last December.
Saudi Arabia will suspend all international flights for two weeks, starting Sunday, state news agency SPA said, Taiwan will require travellers from mainland Europe, Britain and Ireland to self-isolate for 14 days, while New Zealand implemented a similar measure for all those entering the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also called on cruise ships, a major source of infections in some countries, not to come to New Zealand until June 30.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced a ban on public events with more than 500 people on March 13, joining countries such as Australia where the ban will come into force on March 16.
Britain will introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings, said a government source, an escalation of its crisis plan which critics had said was too relaxed.
The Philippines capital Manila, home to 12 million people, announced nighttime curfews on Saturday and urged shopping malls to close for one month.
“To limit the spread of the virus, we need to limit the movement of people. We are slowing down the movement of people in Metro Manila,” said Jose Arturo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
CHINA NEW INFECTIONS FALLING
While infections continue to climb around the world, in mainland China the number of new cases is falling.
The number of new coronavirus cases imported into mainland China from overseas surpassed the number of locally transmitted new infections for the first time on Friday, data released by the National Health Commission showed on Saturday.
Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases on Friday, up from eight cases a day earlier, but only four of those – all in the virus epicenter of Hubei province – were locally transmitted.
Hubei has now seen new infections fall for nine straight days. All four of the new cases on Friday, down from five a day earlier, were in provincial capital Wuhan.
The flu-like virus has infected 80,824 people in mainland China, the commission said.
SHOPS, SPORT, MUSEUMS SHUT DOWN
In a bid to limit the economic damage from a pandemic that has infected the US House of Representatives passed an aid package that would provide free testing and paid sick leave.
The US military said it will halt most domestic travel, extending earlier restrictions on international travel for its more than a million active-duty troops around the world.
Travel bans have hammered airlines and travel companies worldwide, while financial markets have been hit by panic selling this week.
The impact of the coronavirus on everyday life is also deepening.
The Czech government will shut most shops and restaurants from early Saturday, with exceptions including food stores, pharmacies and gas stations.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Moulin Rouge cabaret closed their doors. The Smithsonian Museums in Washington were preparing to do so on Saturday. Broadway theatres in New York went dark.
The kissing of the Blarney Stone, one of Ireland’s oldest tourist traditions, was suspended.
The global sporting calendar has also been left in tatters with major tournaments cancelled, postponed or forced to continue without spectators.
But sport’s biggest showpieces, the Olympics, will still proceed as planned, according to Tokyo organizers.