Bangladesh extends border closure with India until June 30 over Covid-19 fears

The government closed the border in April after scientists warned of the severity of the Delta coronavirus variant

Bangladeshi nationals pull their luggage after they cross the Indian side, following an announcement about the closure of the India-Bangladesh border as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Fulbari Border checkpoint, some 16 kms from Siliguri on March 13, 2020. (Photo by DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP)

Bangladesh will keep its border crossings with India shut until the end of June following a surge in Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths in neighbouring Indian states.

The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reported by the Dhaka Tribune on Monday.

Bangladeshis in India whose visas are valid for 15 days or less will be allowed to return home, provided they quarantine for two weeks, the ministry said.

Bangladesh closed its border with India on April 26 following a surge in infections of the so-called Delta variant of the disease, which was first detected in India.

The variant has alarmed health experts because of its highly transmissible nature and has also been blamed for more severe illness and a higher fatality rate among patients.

As concerns grew over the Delta variant, Bangladesh's National Technical Advisory Committee asked the government to close the border. The country detected its first cases of the variant on May 8 and there are concerns it could have taken hold in the population.

Fatalities appear to be rising in the county once again, with 47 deaths reported on Sunday by the Directorate General of Health Services, the highest toll since early May.

Bangladesh has reported more than 13,000 deaths from Covid-19.

To combat the pandemic, in addition to lockdowns, the government has signed up to the international Covax vaccine sharing scheme, but supply constraints have affected distribution.

Health authorities took a second delivery of Sinopharm vaccines from China on Sunday.