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The Financial Express

Bangladesh may see fresh wave of Covid-19, experts fear

| Updated: March 14, 2021 09:18:00


Bangladesh may see fresh wave of Covid-19, experts fear

As the country has been witnessing a sudden surge in coronavirus cases for the last four days with more than 1,000 cases each day, health experts think it is likely to be an indication of a fresh wave of the deadly virus.

They said public apathy to wear masks and maintain health safety rules, the prevalence of ‘highly transmissible UK variant’ and the complacency over the low transmission rate can be the main reasons behind the spike in the Covid-19 cases.

The experts said the government should intensify its mass campaign to motivate people to abide by the health precautions, avoid unnecessary mass gatherings and conduct mobile courts to ensure cent per cent mask use to contain the virus transmission.

The virus infection rate came down to below 5 per cent on January 18 last. It even came down below 3 per cent. However, the infection rate soared again on Tuesday last as it increased to 5.13 per cent.

The infection rate was 5.98 per cent on Wednesday while 5.82 per cent on Thursday, 6.62 per cent on Friday and 6.26 per cent on Saturday.

The country's daily Covid-19 cases stayed below the 1,000-mark before Wednesday when the daily Covid-19 cases rose to 1,018.

Next two weeks crucial

Talking to UNB, public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said it is a matter of concern that the Covid cases are increasing again.

“The fresh surge in corona cases indicates that the country may face a dangerous situation in the days to come. If the growing trend of the virus cases continues for the next two weeks, we’ll call it a fresh wave of the Covid-19,” he said.

The expert said low transmission rate for a long time has given people an impression that this deadly disease is getting eliminated soon.

Besides, Lenin said, many people think that the virus is getting weaker gradually as the mass vaccination programme is going on.

”That’s why people have largely been ignoring health safety protocols. They’re not wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and health hygiene rules. People are also visiting tourist spots and joining mass gatherings while social and political functions are going on as usual, causing the spike in the virus infection rate,” he observed.

Lenin said the highly transmissible new coronavirus variant first sequenced in the UK was detected in Bangladesh in January last. “This variant is likely spreading fast now as proper steps were not taken to prevent it over the last two months.”

Besides, he said, two highly mutant virus strains --N440K and E484Q--have been detected in India last month in addition to the three other strains from the UK, South Africa and Brazil. “These strains can spread to Bangladesh through the border.”

Doing the best to prevent

Dr Lenin said all, including those who received the vaccine, must wear masks to protect themselves from the virus. “The government should carry out a campaign to encourage people to wear masks and maintain health safety rules.”

He said the government should now conduct mobile courts immediately to force people to wear masks.

Besides, the expert said, the government should increase its monitoring so that all the public and private offices strictly follow the physical distancing and the health safety rules.

He also suggested the government intensify its campaign of ‘No mask no service’.

Strengthening vaccination programme

Lenin said people are now gradually showing less interest in receiving the vaccine. “The campaign should be strengthened further to motivate people for taking the vaccine jabs.”

He said volunteers and public representatives should visit people’s homes as they do during voting for encouraging people to receive the vaccine.

Besides, he said, the number of vaccination centres should be increased so that people can easily get vaccinated. “We should provide vaccine shots to around four lakh people every day, but currently around one lakh people are receiving the jabs every day.”

The expert said the government should also look for new sources for collecting the vaccine as a huge number of people will have to be given it within a year to control the virus transmission.

Women’s poor response to vaccination

Dr Lenin said the government still could not ensure vaccine jabs for many vulnerable groups like floating people, slum dwellers, day labourers, farmers and low-income people. “We should take immediate steps to ensure vaccine shots for these groups of people.”

He also said a large number of women are still out of coronavirus vaccination drive. Among those who have so far received tbe vaccine, Lenin said, around 65 per cent are men while 35 women. “It means women are showing less interest in getting the jabs.”

He said the government should give focus on encouraging women to have vaccine jabs and creating scope for them to get it easily without any hassle.

Has summer any correlation?

Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said the reasons behind the rise in coronavirus cases cannot be pinpointed since there is no research and survey in the country. “But I personally think the UK strain that has been detected in the country is definitely contributing to the rise in the fresh cases gradually,” he said.

The expert also said Bangladesh’s summer may be favourable for the coronavirus as the country witnessed the surge in coronavirus last year during the same period.

“Experts had an apprehension that the virus would badly surge in the country during winter, but it didn’t. A study should be conducted to examine whether Bangladesh’s summer condition is favourable for the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.

Focus on keeping mortality rate low

Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said people’s carelessness is the main reason behind the rise in the coronavirus cases, but it will not persist for a long time as last year. “We’re a little bit worried over the fresh spike in coronavirus cases, but we’re hopeful that the cases will decline substantially again within a few weeks,” he said.

Mannan said though the infection rate has gone up, the death rate is still very low. “We’re working to keep the death rate at the lower level.”

He said they are going to intensify their mass campaign to encourage people to wear masks and receive the vaccine.

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