16th March 2020:
Assalamu Alaikum, and good afternoon.
Thank you for joining us today here at the State Guest House Padma. We requested your kind presence for two reasons: (1) We would like to brief you on the COVID-19 pandemic situation and the preparedness of our country in preventing this virus as well as managing any COVID-19 infected patients, and (2) To celebrate with you the beginning of Mujib Borsho, on the eve of the centenary birthday of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which will start in a few hours.
2. As you all are kindly aware, the Coronavirus pandemic has now spread into 143 countries/territories/areas, killing more than 5,700 people with almost 154,000 people infected all over the world, as per WHO statistics till last evening.
3. Bangladesh was free of COVID-19 till last week. We successfully prevented entry of the virus through strong surveillance and rigorous checks-up at all international airports, seaports and land ports.As of now, we had only 8 COVID-19 imported cases. Three of them have already recovered. The imported cases were able to enter the country as they were free of any COVID-19 symptoms when they entered the country. We have no local or community transmission of any COVID-19 case.We have around 150 persons under self-quarantine. None of them are COVID-19 patients, but we have taken pre-emptive measures for public health concern.
4. On the issue of addressing the challenge of COVID-19, We have set up a national committee to provide guidance to concerned people from all Ministries at all levels. We have also undertaken massive awareness raising campaigns everywhere in Bangladesh through all available medias including social media. Local body representatives are vigilant to enforce home quarantine, if necessary.
5. We have kept four newly built hospital, including the Kuwait-Moitree Hospital, in Dhaka dedicated to exclusively deal with COVID-19 patients. In addition, there is one more hospital in Rajshahi, to exclusively handle COVID-19 patients. We have also earmarked separate beds in every Government hospital in all districts to treat COVID-19 patients. We have asked private hospitals to make such provisions as well. A few vacant buildings have been identified where make-shift hospitals can be established in case there is any such need. We have stockpiles of testing kits, infra-red thermometers, isolation gowns and masks. We have trained health workers even up to upazila levels with necessary Treatment Protocol. School children are also being trained to follow necessary personal hygiene. We have stockpiles of testing kits, infra-red thermometers, isolation gowns and masks.
6. Bangladesh believes in working together with all countries – regionally and globally. We are a strong believer in multi-lateralism. Since infectious disease and pandemic does not respect any border, we are also engaged regionally under the SAARC Mechanism to prevent the spread of the COVID-9 menace and to address the situation and issues arising out of it. As you are kindly aware, last evening all the SAARC Leaders discussed the issue over Video-Conference. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister proposed close collaboration among SAARC countries under the coordination of SAARC Secretariat to address these issues. Our technical and health experts would be engaged in this collaborative works.Our Hon’ble Prime Minister also proposed global cooperation in fighting the COVID-19.
7. You are kindly aware that we have decided not to allow persons coming from Europe to enter Bangladesh for the time being, as WHO has flagged that Europe is now the “Epicentre” of the pandemic situation. We have put this measure in place purely on a temporary basis, till 31st March 2020, and we will revisit the situation as it demands. I would like to assure you that this measure is not applicable to persons with diplomatic passports or laissez passers posted in Bangladesh. Also, persons leaving Bangladesh for Europe can freely do so. As for foreigners staying in Bangladesh at this moment, if they want to extend their stay here, their visas will be extended by three more months, if required.
8. As you are kindly aware, we are providing whatever support people need in our country relating to COVID-19 irrespective of their nationality. I would like to assure you all that Bangladesh Government and its people will stand beside all our guests and support and care them as our own people and will provide any assistance they need in case of any issue related to COVID-19. Let me also take this opportunity to reassure you that diplomats working here in Bangladesh are our honoured guests, and we will take all necessary steps to ensure your safety and wellbeing in this difficult time.
9. While we fight against this Pandemic menace together, we are also sure that your respective Governments and countries would also provide safety and care to our workers and people residing in your countries. Our Missions in your countries are observing the situations closely and are in constant touch with the local administration and are fully cooperating with them. We request the Governments of your countries, through you, Excellencies, to extend necessary support to the Embassies and Consulates of Bangladesh in your countries so that they can perform their duties in this challenging time.
9. Under this Pandemic situation, it is of utmost importance that all countries stand unitedto support each other in all possible ways in addressing thisenormous public health challenge that can paralyze the whole world. We believe together we can overcome this pandemic situation sooner than later.
Thank you, Excellencies, for your time and for your kind attention.
Long-live Our Friendship!