DHAKA: Bangladesh is set to convert all its stadiums into temporary quarantine centers or field hospitals to facilitate authorities in curbing the spread of coronavirus in the country, officials told Arab News on Wednesday.
“In Bangladesh, the situation is still not that bad when compared to the global pandemic. However, as a precautionary measure we’ve decided to establish makeshift hospitals or quarantine centers in case of an emergency,” said Zahid Ahsan Russel, state minister for youth and sport.
There are 80 stadiums and 125 mini-stadiums across the country, with some being used to accommodate army personnel who have been mobilized to ensure that people observe the nationwide lockdown.
Health officials on Wednesday said they are focusing on ensuring that institutional quarantine measures are practiced at hospitals across the country.
“The situation is constantly changing, and we’ll take steps according to the demand of the time,” Dr. Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate of Health, told Arab News.
“Considering the present situation … our government hospitals are taking good care of COVID-19 patients.”
Public health experts welcomed the authorities’ decision to convert stadiums into quarantine centers.
“Stadiums are isolated and mostly established on the outskirts of cities and towns, so it will help us prevent and control the spread of the virus,” Dr. Rashid-e-Mahbub, a renowned public health expert in Bangladesh, told Arab News.
He said the outbreak “may not” take a turn for the worse in Bangladesh, as has been the case in other Southeast Asian countries.
As of Wednesday, Bangladesh identified 54 COVID-19 patients, with six deaths reported across the country.
In the past 24 hours, the health department has tested 157 people, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said during an online media briefing conducted by the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research.
Despite a population of more than 160 million, only 1,750 people have been tested for the virus so far, making it the lowest testing rate among all affected countries in the world.
But the government is planning to expand testing facilities in important locations nationwide, and testing centers outside Dhaka will be operative in the next couple of days.
Maleque urged people with coronavirus symptoms to get themselves tested. “Just having these testing facilities won’t suffice. People must spontaneously go there to undertake tests,” he said.
“People must come forward. I don’t want anyone to be outside the scope of testing. Those who have symptoms need to get tested.”
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged people to avoid all festivities and mass gatherings during new year celebrations scheduled to take place on April 14.