Bangladesh imposes week-long air travel ban after COVID surge

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Bangladesh has announced plans to ban all international and domestic flights for a week from Wednesday, coinciding with yet another lockdown to counter a spike in novel coronavirus infections.

All international passenger flights to and from Bangladesh will remain suspended from April 14 to 20, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said on Sunday.

More than 500 flights will be cancelled because of the ban, said the CAAB’s Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.

Domestic passenger flights and chartered helicopter flights are included in the suspension, while some exceptions may be made for medical evacuations, humanitarian relief and cargo flights, the aviation authority said.

A surge in COVID-19 cases since March prompted the government to enforce a nine-day nationwide shutdown until Tuesday, to be followed by yet another seven-day lockdown from Wednesday to slow the spread of the virus.

The authorities imposed a ban on air passengers from Europe and 12 other countries on April 3. Passenger flight operations on domestic routes were suspended on April 5.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, her oppositional Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said on Sunday.

Zia has been asymptomatic and was doing well, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a senior leader of the BNP, told a news briefing, urging people to pray for her.

The 74-year old politician has been under the supervision of her private physicians at home in Dhaka ever since she was released from jail after the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suspended her prison term on health grounds in March last year. 

Zia, a three-time prime minister in the 1990s and 2000s, had been in prison since February 2018 after a court sentenced her to five years in jail for misappropriating funds meant for orphans. A higher court later doubled the term.

Eight other staff members of her home have also been tested positive for the COVID-19, according to her physician Mohammad Al Mamun.

Bangladesh, which reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus last March, reported its highest single-day increase in infections on Friday, with 7,462 cases. So far, the country has reported some 684,756 cases and 9,739 deaths.

The South Asian nation previously imposed a nationwide shutdown for more than two months beginning March 2020.

Source: Al Jazeera
-Agencies

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