Bangladesh on Saturday extended the closure of land borders with India for 14 more days, hours after the country detected six cases of the Indian variant of the COVID-19. The land borders with India were sealed on April 26 in view of the worsening coronavirus situation in the neighbouring country. "The decision to keep close the land borders with India has been extended for 14 more days in view of the COVID-19 situation," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Bangladesh's National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on COVID-19 had earlier suggested the border closure, saying the land routes should not reopen until the situation in India improved.
The spokesman said the transportation of goods through the land borders, however, would continue as previously.
He said that Bangladeshis who were at risk of being stranded on expiry of visas could return home only through Benapole, Akhaura and Burimari borders, obtaining no-objection certificates from Bangladesh missions in New Delhi, Kolkata and Agartala.
The decision came as Bangladesh detected six people, who had recently visited India, infected with the Indian variant of the COVID-19.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) spokesman Professor Dr Nazmul Islam Munna said the cases were detected by health officials overnight.
Out of the six people, two were detected in capital Dhaka.
"Six people have been found to be carrying the Indian variant so far and we expect more people to be detected with identical types of virus in the coming days," Munna said.
All of them were exposed to the variant, also known as B.1.617 and are currently kept under quarantine.
Even though the borders with India were sealed last month, officials and reports said many people came to Bangladesh from India under special arrangements and some of them fled a mandatory quarantine, heightening risks of spreading the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) described the Indian variant as a "variant of interest," suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe disease or evade vaccine immunity.
Bangladesh reported 45 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities to 11,878.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country stands at 772,127 with 1,285 fresh infections reported on Saturday.
The COVID-19 situation has kept the flight operations suspended between the two countries since April 14.
(With PTI inputs)