Bangladesh's Covid-19 tally surpassed the grim mark of four lakh yesterday, on the 232nd day since the deadly virus made inroads in the country.
The rate of infection has dropped but it is still more than 10%. If it stays at 5% for three consecutive weeks, the situation will be regarded as normal, said Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and noted virologist.
In the meantime, the second Covid-19 wave has already hit many countries. Bangladesh is feared to see its onslaught in the upcoming winter.
The government is now focusing on initiatives like making masks compulsory to tackle the second wave.
From June to mid-August, the infection rate in the country hovered between 20% and 23%. It started to decrease at the end of August. It is now fluctuating between 10% and 11%.
Dr Abu Jamil Faisal, a member of the health directorate's eight-member Public Health Advisory Committee, told the Business Standard, "The [novel] coronavirus situation will stay longer if we do not take proper preventive and containment measures."
He said, "The prevention means wearing face masks and abiding by health safety protocols while the containment involves ramping up tests, tracing contacts, isolating infected people and quarantining suspects."
But nothing is going right when it comes to executing such measures, Dr Jamil also said.
Mentioning that the number of people wearing masks has now dropped to 12% from 32%, he said, "There is no alternative to wearing masks to prevent [novel] coronavirus infections. If necessary, we should wage a social movement to ensure mask-wearing."
The first Covid-19 cases were reported in the country on 8 March and the caseload crossed the 3.5 lakh mark on 21 September. The single-day highest number of cases was recorded on 2 July, which was 4,019.
"We do not know when Covid-19 transmission will come under control as there is hardly anyone ready to follow the health guidelines," Dr Jamil said.
Local administration, public representatives, civil society people, and imams of mosques all have to work together to make face-covering mandatory, Dr Faisal pointed out.
Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, also member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said the government has to implement its "no mask no service policy." It needs to send a letter to all offices, informing penalties for not wearing masks.
Dr Habibur Rahman, spokesperson for Directorate General Health Services, told The Business Standard that they are now focusing on preventive measures to deal with the second wave.
The committees formed at the divisional, district and upazila levels have already been instructed to monitor the pandemic situation.
Mosques, temples and other religious places have also been asked to encourage their worshipers to use masks through sermons, he said, adding that mobile courts have received instructions to oversee the wearing of masks.
Additionally, the Islamic Foundation has been instructed to ask the imams of mosques to spread the message after prayers, at least twice a day, that wearing masks is a government order.
"The health directorate is going to introduce an antigen test soon. We have enough Covid-19 treatment beds, supply of oxygen and intensive care units in hospitals. If the number of patients rises, so will the [number of] facilities," Dr Habibur added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh confirmed 15 more deaths from the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours till Monday 8am.
The country's death toll from the virus now stands at 5,818, said a press release issued by the DGHS.
In the last 24 hours, 1,436 people tested positive for Covid-19 and the number of novel coronavirus cases has reached 400,251.