Some 12,771 of the total 13,755 Covid hospital beds were vacant on Tuesday, according to the data of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Most of the Covid-dedicated intensive care units, high-dependency beds and general beds in Dhaka are now used for non-Covid patients.
Even in the first half of August, the daily death tally had been above 200 for 20 days in a row, but in a very contrasting picture, the country reported only three deaths and 229 new cases on Tuesday; daily deaths were just 2 the previous day.
With only 25% of the adult population jabbed with at least one Covid dose so far, Bangladesh seems to have beaten Covid-19 – infections have remained below 5% for 42 consecutive days.
With the virus seemingly stopping its roundups, DGHS Director General Abul Bashar Mohammed Khurshid Alam had visited rural hospitals throughout October to address facility shortages related to non-Covid treatment.
"The virus situation is now calm and we have decided to admit non-Covid-19 patients in one of two ICU units in this hospital," Dr Shoman Aniruddha, anesthesiologist at Dhaka's Mugda General Hospital, told The Business Standard.
Have medical interventions successfully reined in infections, or has Bangladesh already achieved natural herd immunity?
But scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that 75%-80% of the population need to acquire resistance to the coronavirus to be free of it.
Health experts in the country say the number of Covid-19 cases has declined in the country not because of the vaccination programme or health guidelines, but due to the development of antibodies in many people and the prevalence of native viruses like influenza and Raina virus during winter.
'We can't claim too much success'
"We cannot claim much credit. Not everyone wore a face mask or followed health guidelines. And we have vaccinated only 25% of people so far," Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, virologist and a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Business Standard.
"The hypothesis behind the case decline is probably that many of us contracted the virus and showed no symptoms. Thus, we developed natural immunity," he added.
Prof Nazrul said, "We are not conducting antibody tests in our country. If that had been done, many people would have been found naturally immune to the virus."
He also said local viruses become predominant in winter in the country, and that could have contributed to the flattened Covid curve.
Echoing Dr Nazrul Islam, Dr M Mushtaq Hussain, adviser at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said, "Many people have already been infected, so now the infection rate is low."
He said if more people, especially the elderly, are vaccinated fast, the death rate will be low even if infections surge again.
What about studies?
If the country has already achieved herd immunity, two previous studies that suggested many people had natural immunity against Covid appear to have reached some sort of accurate findings.
However, the researchers themselves had discarded the findings as generalized conclusions, saying the sample sizes were too low to call for any specific comments.
In October last year, at least 45% of the population in Dhaka city were found to have developed antibodies against Covid-19. The study by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) also found that the rate of Covid-19 antibody prevalence among slum people was a whopping 74%.
In June this year, another study showed around 72% slum dwellers and 62% non-slum people in Dhaka and Chattogram were carrying Covid-19 antibodies. The study was carried out by the icddr,b.
Dr Firdausi Qadri, a senior scientist at the icddr,b, at the time termed the findings "encouraging" and said, "It suggests the beginning of a herd immunity.