Coronavirus: Bangladesh suspends on arrival visa for Chinese nationals

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Dhaka, Feb 02: Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said Bangladesh suspended the visa on arrival for Chinese nationals as part of the government’s temporary policy following the outbreak of coronavirus.At the same time, he said, the government has advised Chinese nationals living in Bangladesh and working in various development projects to avoid visiting China in the next one month.

“Last night (Saturday night), we took the decision to stop providing on arrival visa (until further notice),” the Foreign Minister told reporters at a briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He said regular visas will be issued but the applicants will have to produce medical certificates indicating that they have no health-related complexities.

The Foreign Minister said they conveyed the decision to Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming last night.

The deaths caused by the new virus rose to at least 304 globally so far.Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and Secretary (Maritime Affairs Unit) Rear Admiral (Retd) Md Khurshed Alam were, among others, present at the briefing.

Dr Momen said the Chinese nationals who live in Bangladesh visit China frequently and conveyed that they should avoid going to China for a month.

“This will be a temporary situation,” he said, adding that this is how they are trying to control the traffic.

Asked whether Bangladesh’s trade and commerce ties with China will be affected, the Foreign Minister said they do not think it will be affected by the temporary policy.

Despite a 14-day restriction by the Chinese authorities, Bangladesh could bring back its nationals from China before other countries, which shows “strong friendship” with Bangladesh, he said.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman said the mission in Beijing will extend cooperation and assistance if any Bangladesh citizen is still willing to return from China.

“Evacuation (if required more) will be done on a case-by-case basis,” he told UNB as a total of 316 Bangladesh citizens returned home on a special flight on Saturday.

The Bangladesh envoy said it will be based on the ground situation and in consultation with Chinese authorities.

“However, providing safety, welfare and security of our citizens remains our prime concern and objective,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given clear instructions to that end.

Bangladeshis were brought back from China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak, on Saturday morning and seven of them were sent to Kurmitola General Hospital.

However, the Foreign Minister on Sunday put the number at 314.

Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Mokabbir Hossain said 316 Bangladeshis, including three infants, arrived here from Wuhan.

Assistant Director of the Directorate General of Health Services Dr Shahriar said 309 of them have been kept at the quarantine unit at Ashkona Hajj Camp while seven were admitted to Kurmitola General Hospital.

He said four of the passengers were suffering from fever, three others from cough and sneezing.

Contacted, Director of Kurmitola General Hospital Brig Gen Jamil Ahmed said doctors at the hospital found their temperature normal when they were brought here.

Samples of the seven Bangladeshis were sent to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) for testing, he said.

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

A number of countries have already suspended visas for Chinese travellers.

The health ministry has also ordered screening of all people coming to Bangladesh from India through Benapole land port for coronavirus.

Global coronavirus cases rose to nearly 14,380, surpassing that of the 2003 Sars epidemic, according to Chinese and World Health Organization data.

The majority of the cases have been reported from China but about 100 cases have been confirmed in 23 other countries. Bangladesh is yet to report any case.

The Philippines has recently reported the first coronavirus death outside China, reports the South China Morning Post.