Bangladesh has detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India, the country’s health directorate said on Saturday, urging the government to keep its border sealed for another two weeks.
Six cases of the Indian variant have been detected in Bangladesh, Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the health directorate, told reporters.
“Two cases are confirmed to be of the Indian variant, and the others are quite close,” Sultana said, adding that they had all recently returned from neighboring India and were in isolation.
“The Indian variant is very contagious and people should be careful and strictly follow health guidelines such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and washing hands,” she said.
The variant, named B.1.617, has reached at least 17 countries, from Britain and Iran to Switzerland, sparking global concern.
The World Health Organization described it as a “variant of interest”, suggesting that it might have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more serious illness, or escape vaccine immunity. Read more
India, grappling with a devastating second wave of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums, announced its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 on Saturday. Read more
At the end of April, Bangladesh sealed its border with India for 14 days, although trade continues. The government decided on Saturday to extend the border closure for a further 14 days after the variant was detected, a foreign ministry official said.
Air travel has been suspended since April 14, when Bangladesh imposed a strict one-week lockdown. Since then, a loose lockdown has been in place until May 16.
Bangladesh’s second wave peaked about a month ago. Since then, daily infections have been declining, with 1,285 new cases reported on Saturday and 45 deaths.
The total number of cases stands at 772,127, with 11,878 deaths.
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