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Experts warn of dreadful virus peak ahead of Eid

UNB | Thursday, 24 June 2021


Amid the rise in Covid cases triggered by local transmission of the Delta variant, experts predict that Bangladesh may see the peak of the current wave of the deadly virus in the third week of July next.

Using a mathematical model, Bangladesh Como Modelling Group, a panel of local and international health experts, also said the number of daily cases is likely to cross 10,000-mark in mid-July, putting a serious pressure on the country's healthcare system.

They, however, said the severity of the virus infection and fatality rates during the probable peak on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha will depend on the effectiveness of preventive measures, management of cattle markets and control on public movement.

The experts appreciated the government's move to isolate Dhaka from other parts of the country by suspending road, rail and waterway communications, saying that it may help slow down the virus transmission.

Prevailing situation

Bangladesh reported 20.27 per cent positivity rate and 1.59 per cent fatality rate on Wednesday, the highest since April 21.

DGHS spokesperson Dr Robed Amin said the Covid-19 situation has worsened in the country as the virus has been spreading fast in bordering and other areas of the country. "The number of cases and deaths are gradually rising."

He said they fear that a terrible situation lies ahead if people do not strictly maintain the health safety rules.

Robed said the virus transmission has been showing a gradual upward trend from June 16 and the death rate is now very high.

He said over 70,000 people were diagnosed with Covid this month due to the outbreak of the virus in the frontier areas.

Robed said the Corona situation has deteriorated in Barishal, Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Mymensingh and Rangpur divisions over the last one week.

He said the virus infection has declined in Rajshahi while Sylhet is in a somewhat stable condition. "Khulna division witnessed the highest number of Covid deaths over the last one week."

The DGHs spokesman said there are many empty beds and ICUs in government and private hospitals in different parts of the country, including Dhaka, but the picture of hospitals in border areas is different as most of them are overwhelmed.

Possible consequences of Covid peak

Talking to UNB, Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, a member of Bangladesh Como Modelling group, said they have a projection that the second wave of Covid coronavirus may reach its peak in the third week of the coming month.

"But if we can effectively enforce all preventive measures, then the virus may come under control before it reaches its peak. But the way the government has so far been tackling the virus, the peak is inevitable as it has spread all over the country amid people's apathy to abide by the health safety rules," he said.

During the virus peak, Dr Faisel said the number of Covid patients will increase alarmingly and the country will record more than 10,000 cases a day which will create a huge impact on the hospitals. "There'll be a crisis of beds, ICU and oxygen, doctors and nurses, contributing to increasing the fatality rate substantially."

"We couldn't clearly project the possible fatality rate as it often fluctuates, and it depends on hospital management and some other factors. But my personal assumption is that more than 100 people will die every day during the peak period," he observed.

Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said, "I'm not sure whether the virus is going to reach its peak, but I fear we're going to face an awful situation in the second or third week of July."

He said the situation may go beyond control, creating a human disaster in the country as the highly transmissible Delta strain has been spreading across the country.

How to avoid

As the situation is deteriorating fast, Dr Faisel said the government should now focus on how to control virus transmission and avoid the peak.

"The cooperation of people in this regard is essential as wearing masks and avoiding mass gatherings and social functions are the effective ways to break the cycle of the corona transmission," he said.

Dr Faisel said without controlling public movement, the virus transmission cannot be controlled. "All the offices, hotels, restaurants, community and convention centres and markets should be kept shut at least for two weeks to contain the virus. Though the government has enforced lockdowns in the districts around Dhaka, many people are still entering and leaving the capital in many ways and it has to be stopped."

Dr Lenin said the government must take both motivational and punitive measures to ensure the cent per cent mask use. "The Prime Minister can encourage the rich and corporate houses to donate masks to her relief fund so that the government can provide the poor and needy people with adequate cloth-made masks."

Besides, he said, the number of the daily tests must be increased so that the positive cases can be detected fast for sending them to isolation." We also need to focus on contact tracing. Effective lockdown is necessary in the districts where virus transmission is very high."

Cattle markets, Eid journeys big worries

IEDCR consultant Prof Mushtuq Hussain said there is a risk of increasing the virus transmission during the Eid-ul-Azha due to cattle markets and mad rush of holidaymakers.

"Farmers will come to different markets, including the capital, from bordering and other areas with their cattle on the eve of eid while many will return to their villages from cities which, we think, will help create a disastrous situation since the transmission has already been showing an uptrend," he said.

Prof Mushtuq said cattle markets may turn into a major centre for the virus infection as thousands of sellers and buyers will gather there. "A third wave may come after the eid, if mass movement can't be controlled and the health guidelines at the cattle markets across the country can't be maintained."