Experts fear lax government measures and people’s non-compliance with health guidelines will exacerbate the pandemic in the country
- Bringing positivity rate down to 5% may take time
- Indifference to hygiene rules keeps infection rate still high
- 45% of total Covid-19 patients are from Dhaka city
- Vaccine not coming this year
- Districts should have their own strategies to fight the virus
While a second wave of Covid-19 is battering many countries, Bangladesh is still going through its first wave; which began when the country diagnosed its first case around six months ago.
Even all these months later, border areas of the country are witnessing a surge in novel coronavirus infections instead of an expected decline.
Meanwhile, a growing unwillingness among the people to follow hygiene rules is giving the impression that everything has returned to normal.
Experts fear this will prolong the outbreak in the country, leading to a rise in the death toll.
Bangladesh is still going through the first wave of Covid-19, mentioned Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. "It is only then we can say that the infection rate has decreased when the ratio of [novel] coronavirus positive cases will come down to below five in every 100 instances of tests," he told The Business Standard.
He went on to say, "In our country, the positivity rate has been hovering between 20 and 25 percent since May 25. The positivity rate has been slightly lower since August 20, but it is still around 18 percent."
"It took three months for the positivity rate to drop by two percentage points, although hygiene was somewhat maintained at the time. However, now that everything is open, people are not following hygiene rules and it may take a long time to bring the positivity rate down to five percent," he added.
The infection rate will not come down on its own, he maintained, adding, "If you do not wear a mask, maintain social distancing and follow the health guidelines, the pandemic will linger."
"Around 45 percent of the total Covid-19 patients in the country are from Dhaka city. Those patients are not being isolated. They are spreading the virus to others," he said.
Professor Nazrul Islam, also a member of the government's national technical advisory committee on Covid-19, said, "Everyone is eager for the vaccine, but they are not aware about following the hygiene rules and ensuring isolation or quarantine."
"The vaccine will not come this year. Therefore, if tests are not done, and quarantine and isolation are not ensured in line with the proper guidelines, the virus will continue to spread," he said.
Bangladesh confirmed its first Covid-19 cases on March 8 this year and the first death was reported 10 days later.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Southeast Asia region, is struck at the fact that novel coronavirus transmission has not been contained in Bangladesh; even after six months.
"According to the WHO, Bangladesh is one of the few countries where Covid-19 has yet to be contained, instead it is increasing. From the beginning of March, Bangladesh failed to take the right decisions at the right time," he said.
"The government did not implement the movement restrictions properly and it did not enforce the health instructions strictly. All this led to community transmission and the [novel] coronavirus has spread all over the country," he added.
Prof Muzaherul Huq maintained that people are now reluctant to abide by the health instructions. "It appears that controlling transmission is now unmanageable and containment will take a long time which is also unpredictable," he said.
As the contamination has spread to all districts, the containment policy and its implementation strategy should be decentralised, he argued.
"All districts should have their own strategies on tests, contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and healthcare management of the population of the district. Rapid antigen and antibody tests and serosurveillance must be done in all districts. One of the most important things to do is engaging people to prevent Covid-19," he continued.
Mentioning that it is uncertain when the vaccine will be available, he said the people have to be more aware to prevent the novel coronavirus before it takes more lives.
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), explained the reasons behind the rise in Covid-19 infection in border areas such as Chuadanga and Dinajpur saying infections have risen in those places where people's movement has increased.
Covid-19 infections have recently marked a rise in Rajbari as well, she mentioned.
"Overall, infections are declining in many places. However, if we fail to ensure social distancing and do not wear masks it will not take much time before the rate of infections goes up again," she said.
Many countries are going through a second or third wave, she mentioned, adding, "From that point of view, we have to keep an eye on preparation and resistance all the time."