The number of new infections and deaths is again picking in Bangladesh as in Pakistan and Nepal among South Asian countries
The fresh surge in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths is now conjuring up images of another deadly wave as the numbers are again picking up in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal among the South Asian countries.
In the span of a week, Bangladesh has experienced 0.4% and 13.9% spike in infection and death counts respectively, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the latest situation.
Against this backdrop, health experts suggest reopening Covid-dedicated hospitals and increasing the number of intensive care beds all the more.
They blamed people hardly bothering about WHO's health protocols such as wearing masks properly, maintaining social distancing and avoiding public gatherings for the rise in infections and deaths.
Bangladesh registered 38 more deaths from the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours till Wednesday 8am.
The country's death toll from the virus now stands at 6,713, according to a press release issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Some 2,198 people tested positive for the virus afresh during the time, raising the toll to 469,423.
Dr Jahidur Rahman, assistant professor of the virology department of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, told The Business Standard, "The positivity rate against samples tested in our lab is now 35-40%, which was much lower even a few months ago. The positivity rate is on the rise in the country's all labs."
A certain portion of Covid-19 positive people will die if infections are not brought under control, he added.
So, the government should shut community centres, tourist spots and others to avoid gatherings to flatten the curve. Because it is not possible to prevent infections just by wearing a mask in crowded places, Dr Jahidur said.
There is no alternative to follow health guidelines for now as it will take six months more for the general public to get vaccines, Dr Jahidur Rahman added.
Among neighbouring countries, India has witnessed a slight decline in new cases and deaths compared to what it was in the first week of November. However, the positivity rate is increasing in Nepal and Pakistan.
Dr M Mushtuq Hussain, Covid-19 pandemic control consultant at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said the situation can turn for the worse all of a sudden if proper measures are not taken to control the infections.
"Infections are now on the rise in the neighbouring countries. We have kept on communicating with those countries. As a result, infections may increase further in our country too," he also said.
In November, the number of Covid-19 patients increased by 30% to 57,248 and deaths by 7.3% to 721 in Bangladesh. In October, there were 44,205 patients in the country and 672 died.
The infection rate in the country has been fluctuating between 12% and 16% since November 15. The daily death count is standing above 30 on most days.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told TBS, the infection rate is witnessing a rise and fall.
"If infections continue to rise continuously for two weeks, we can say that the second wave has hit the country," he added.
Patients are dying due to lack of management in hospitals. There are no intensive care beds in districts outside Dhaka and critical patients need to be brought to Dhaka. That is why patients' condition turns worse, Nazrul said.
Professor Nazrul Islam suggested increasing intensive care beds at the district level to reduce deaths. He also asked for reopening Covid-19 dedicated hospitals.
The hospitals have to have arrangements for providing oxygen and high-flow nasal cannula, he added.
Analysing data from the health directorate, it was found that daily deaths were below 30 in two out of the last seven days. The number of patients requiring intensive care beds is also on the rise in hospitals in Dhaka.
Some 70% of Covid-19 intensive care units are occupied with patients. Now, there is no empty seat in the ICUs of the three Covid-19 dedicated hospitals.
Habibur Rahman, director of the Management Information System and spokesperson of the health directorate, said, "There has been an emphasis on wearing masks to reduce infections. Now, our crisis of intensive care beds is somewhat visible. Work is underway to increase the number of beds in phases."
"Our hospitals have adequate arrangements for high flow nasal cannula and oxygen supply. However, if the number of patients increases, we are thinking of reopening the Covid-19 dedicated hospitals," he added.