Published:  04:33 PM, 28 July 2020

IOM supports govt efforts at entry points to fight COVID-19

IOM supports govt efforts at entry points to fight COVID-19

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Bangladesh, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting the government to strengthen emergency health surveillance systems at Points of Entry (PoE) in Bangladesh in line with the National Preparedness and Response Plan on COVID-19.

IOM supports national authorities to strengthen the cooperation among agencies, refurbish PoEs, and build the capacity of PoE personnel to identify, screen and refer ill-travelers that present with COVID-19 symptoms, an IOM press release said.

The Organization is supporting the government-led efforts at eight PoEs, including Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport (HSIA), Sylhet Osmani International Airport, Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport (SAIA), Chittagong Sea Port, and Akhaura, Benapole, and Darshana Border Crossing Points (BCPs), and Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station.

IOM has organised trainings for PoE staff, distributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene materials, and provided technical guidance on the development of standard operating procedures (SoPs) for suspected COVID-19 cases in aircrafts, and management of health screening of travelers transiting through border control points.

Since March 2020, with funding from the Japan government, IOM completed rapid needs assessments of eight PoEs, convened eight PoE Health Border Mobility Management (HBMM) task force meetings, arranged two ad hoc Crisis Management Team (CMT) meetings at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) and donated equipment items to Communicable Disease Control Unit of the Directorate General of Health Services to improve data and information management.

The UN agency also donated an ambulance to Shah Amanat International Airport (SAIA) in Chattogram and PPE and other protective materials to eight PoEs, supported the government to develop two Standard Operating Procedures for management of travelers at airports and management of suspected COVID-19 cases in aircrafts, installed health screening and support desks/booths at Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station and HSIA, assigned medical support staff to SAIA, supplied Information Education Communication materials (900,000 Health declaration forms, 50,000 passenger locator forms, and 100,000 other screening forms), and trained 352 frontline workers.

On 23 July, IOM provided health screening facilities to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s busiest international airport. All inbound and outbound passengers are being screened at the health screening desks where health declaration forms are being collected by staff from the Ministry of Health.

The semi-permanent health screening facilities installed at the airport are scalable and fitted with protective screens to ensure that screening staff are protected when questioning travelers and collecting passenger health declaration forms during border control operations.

The health screening desks are open on a 24/7 basis. Passengers are being screened and provided with information on symptom identification, the importance of quarantine, and when and how to seek treatment.

There are 28 points of entry to Bangladesh and these land, sea, and air border crossing points can act as the gateway for the importation of infectious disease. To support containment measures, it is essential to identify ill travelers at points of entry and enhance capacities to prevent further spread of COVID-19 at the community level.

The identification of passengers with COVID-19 symptoms and subsequent referral for testing or quarantine will enable authorities to contain the transmission at the source. The systems in place, also support national authorities to prevent infected outbound passengers from exporting infection to other countries.

“The threat to Bangladesh remains the virus, not people. We are working with the government to ensure the safety of migrants leaving or returning to Bangladesh by supporting measures to identify travelers with symptoms as they transit through points of entry,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM chief of mission in Bangladesh.

“We strengthen the response capacity of authorities through reinforcing infrastructure, making PPE readily available to frontline workers, and by implementing responsive procedures that evolve as we learn more about how this virus is transmitted and how it can be contained,” Gigauri added.

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