Bangladesh extends closure of borders with India amidst surge in COVID cases linked to B.1.617.2 strain

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Dhaka, May 30 (PTI) Bangladesh on Sunday extended the closure of land borders with India for 14 more days amidst a surge in the COVID-19 cases linked to the B.1.617.2 strain, first detected in India.

However, the transportation of goods through the land borders would continue as earlier, the foreign ministry said.

The land borders with India were first sealed on April 26 in view of the worsening coronavirus situation in the neighbouring country. On May 8, Bangladesh extended the travel ban for 14 more days, hours after it detected six cases of the B.1.617.2 variant of the coronavirus.

'We've extended it (the travel ban with India) for 14 more days and will evaluate the situation further,' a senior official of the foreign affairs ministry said on Sunday.

The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting headed by Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen following detection of more B.1.617.2 variant cases in some bordering districts of Bangladesh.

Health officials have so far detected 23 confirmed coronavirus cases linked to the B.1.617.2 strain, the foreign ministry official said after the conclusion of the meeting.

The directorate of health services (DGHS) has also asked the government to put eight northwestern, southern and southwestern districts bordering India under 'stricter lockdown' in view of a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in those areas.

'Our Epidemiology and Public Health Committee has suggested a complete lockdown for those districts,' a DGHS spokesman said.

In Chapainawabganj district, seven individuals, who have not travelled to India recently, tested positive for the B.1.617.2 strain of the coronavirus, leading experts to believe that the variant is being transmitted in the community.

Health officials said they have noticed a notable upward trend in COVID-19 cases in the bordering districts of Naogaon, Rajshahi, Natore, Kushtia, Jashore, Khulna and Satkhira.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that some Bangladeshi nationals have been crossing the border with the assistance of illegal rackets amidst health risk, considering the coronavirus situation in India.

Quoting sources, it said Bangladeshi nationals in Khulna division's six districts -- Satkhira, Jashore, Jhenaidah, Kushtia, Meherpur and Chuadanga -- have been using some points between Bangladesh and India to cross the border without visa.

People have been returning from India using the border points as they have no other way to come back amid the current COVID-19 situation, the report quoted Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Battalion-58 Director Kamrul Hasan as saying.

'Since they have gone to India illegally, they have returned illegally,' he said.

Meanwhile, the government also extended the ongoing coronavirus lockdown in the country from May 30 midnight to June 6 midnight.

Bangladesh's coronavirus tally now stands at 798,830 with the detection of 1,444 new cases in the last 24 hours, while 34 new fatalities pushed the death toll to 12,583, health officials said. PTI AR SCY SCY

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