Bangladesh closes land borders with India amid spike in COVID-19 cases
Dhaka, Apr 25: Bangladesh will close its land borders with India for the next 14 days due to the unprecedented surge of coronavirus cases in the neighbouring nation, Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen announced here on Sunday.
India logged a record of 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day on Sunday, taking its total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,69,60,172. The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record 2,767 daily new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data.
Passenger travel from India to Bangladesh via land will remain closed from Monday for 14 days, Momen told reporters here.
"The decision was taken in view of the rapid increase of coronavirus cases in India...We are closing the land routes for passengers for the time being," he said.
The minister, however, said the trade between the two countries would continue.
There would be no ban on the movement of cargo vehicles, Momen said.
Air travel between India and Bangladesh has already been suspended since April 14 with the rise in infections.
Home Minister Asaduzzamman Khan Kamal also said that the authorities have decided to close the borders with India for two weeks.
"The land routes with India will be shut from April 26," he said.
Bangladesh''s National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on COVID-19 had earlier suggested border closure with India in view of the surging number of coronavirus cases. It had also suggested that the land routes should not reopen until there is an improvement in the coronavirus situation in India.
Bangladesh and India share land borders in West Bengal and the northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Meanwhile, Bangladeshi health officials said the nationwide COVID-19 death toll reached 11,058 on Sunday with 101 more people succumbing to the disease in the last 24 hours.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in a statement said 2,922 new infections were recorded overnight, taking the total tally to 7,45,322 in the country.
Bangladesh is currently under lockdown. Health officials have expressed concern that the proposed relaxation of the restrictions on movement from April 28, two weeks before the Eid-ul-Fitr, could deteriorate the coronavirus situation in the country.
Road transport minister and ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader has warned that the government would be forced to reimpose strict lockdown if people do not follow guidelines once the public transport services are resumed after the end of the ongoing two-week lockdown.
In a related development, DGHS officials said the vaccine shortage has prompted them to stop administering the first dose of the jab procured from India''s Serum Institute.
"We have stopped the first dose of vaccination considering our stock," a DGHS spokesman told reporters, but added that the second dose of the vaccination would continue.
DGHS Director General Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam said Bangladesh will get 21 lakh more doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the first week of May. Most of those doses would come from India''s Serum Institute, he said.
"We''ll also get vaccines from China as a gift. The COVID-19 National Technical Advisory Committee will take the decision on how those will be administered," Alam said.
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Momen said Russia has proposed co-production of its Sputnik vaccine in Bangladesh plants. However, nothing has been finalised as yet.
On Chinese vaccines, he said Bangladesh earlier did not show much interest about Chinese vaccine as they were yet to get approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"But now, we are keeping all options open to get vaccines," Momen said.
Bangladesh has purchased 30 million doses of India-made vaccine under a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on November 5 and a subsequent agreement on December 13 between the Bangladesh government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) and the Serum Institute.