With 10 days to go, July already has the dubious distinction of being the worst month for Bangladesh during the pandemic with deaths and infections regularly hitting record peaks, but the hospitals in Dhaka fear a coronavirus crisis even worse may play out in August, bdnews24.com reports.
Officials at the hospitals say they have been struggling to tackle the pressure in the past few weeks as all the general and Intensive Care Unit beds have remained occupied with an increasing number of patients.
They fear another round of battle against the coronavirus is looming as negligence in wearing a mask, practising physical distancing and sanitising hands during the exodus of holidaymakers and the cattle markets were rampant after the lifting of the lockdown restrictions for Eid-ul-Azha.
They are getting ready for the next wave which risks putting even more strain on the health facilities. But doubts linger as to whether the preparations will prove sufficient in the end.
Bangladesh is currently going through the most devastating wave of infections after the number of patients had begun to rise in April due to the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The situation improved slightly in May before worsening again.
After the government registered more than 112,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,884 deaths in June, The monthly caseload crossed 200,000 in the first 20 days of July while the death toll reached 3,500.
The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 had warned that lifting the restrictions during Eid in this situation would cause devastation, but the government went ahead with its plans to withdraw the lockdown and reimpose it in a harsher form on Friday.
HOSPITAL BEDS FILLED UP
According to the Directorate General of Health Services, as many as 2,079 general and 132 ICU beds were free at the hospitals in Dhaka on Wednesday morning.
But officials at several hospitals in the capital said they are turning away many seriously ill people streaming through their doors as they are straining to keep up with a surge of new coronavirus patients.
“(General) beds and ICU are all filled up. We've a lot of patients now. Most of them are from districts outside Dhaka,” said Brig Gen Nazmul Haque, director of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, although DGHS records showed 54 out of 705 general beds at the hospital’s Covid unit were free.
“Many critical patients are coming now. It'd have been better had those from other districts come at the early stage of infection. They're coming only when there's nothing can be done,” he said.
Brig Gen Nazrul Islam Khan, director of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said they had some free general beds, but the ICU was fully filled up as the number of patients, especially those with serious illness, spiked.
The ICU of Mugda General Hospital has also been totally occupied for three weeks, said its Director Asim Kumar Nath.
More than half the patients are from outside Dhaka and they arrive in a critical condition, according to him. Three Covid patients are dying at the hospital daily on an average.
The same scenario is playing out at private hospitals.
Imran Chowdhury, CEO of Bangladesh Specialised Hospital, said all of their 45 general beds and 16 ICU beds had patients, mostly from Jashore, Satkhira, Sirajganj, Chanpainawabganj and Rajshahi.
Among the private facilities, Impulse Hospital has the most beds for Covid patients. The DGHS said 144 out of the 250 general beds and eight of 56 ICU seats were vacant at the hospital.
But its Chief Operating Officer Khadiza Akter said all the beds were occupied, and 60 to 70 percent of them were from outside Dhaka. “Most of them are arriving in a critical condition and require heavy oxygen support.”
Foreigners working in Bangladeshi projects are also getting admitted to the hospital with Covid-19.
HOW WORSE THE SITUATION MAY GET
The hospital authorities say the pressure on them will naturally increase as the government lifted the lockdown when an extension of the coronavirus restrictions was needed to break the rise in infections and deaths.
Asked how worse the situation may turn, DMCH Director Nazmul said he feared it may worsen like those of India or Indonesia.
“It can’t be said that we won’t see 800 to 1,000 deaths daily in August or September. We're afraid to say this. But it appears that this is going to happen.”
“Infections are showing no sign of letting up. It'll peak in August or September. I think the infection rate will fall afterwards if people adhere to the lockdown rules after the Eid, or the restrictions are enforced strictly.”
Brig Gen Nazmul thinks it will be possible to curb the infection rate if the lockdown is enforced strictly like the one in April last year.
“It’s unfair to hope that infections and deaths will decrease when people are moving on the streets, because not everyone has been vaccinated.”
Mugda hospital’s Director Asim thinks the ongoing surge in coronavirus infections will continue until mid-August due to the Eid exodus and lifting of restrictions. “It may drop following the (post-Eid) lockdown.”
BSMMU Director Nazrul blamed the spread of the coronavirus in the rural areas as well for the worsening situation.
“We'd once said that there was no coronavirus in the countryside, but now the villages are the places of concern.”
“If the health protocol is strictly followed, only then can we hope that the infection rate, number of patients and mortality rate will decrease,” he said.
Impulse Hospital COO Khadiza and Bangladesh Specialised Hospital’s Imran said they were making additional preparations for the possible bout of the outbreak after Eid.