On 8 May, the deadly coronavirus variant that is ravaging neighbouring India was found in Bangladesh. This Indian variant is considered dangerous because of its clinical aspects.
Scientists have detected its two clinical aspects: Transmission, and the severity of the disease.
Transmission shows its fast-transferring rate among people and severity of the disease focuses on the variant's impact on the utilisation of resources, comorbidities, and mortality.
Researchers have observed the presence of both clinical aspects in this variant.
This variant's diversity created a concern when the UK variant was detected. It was one of those first variants that started to spread fast and had the chance of becoming extremely severe.
Later, another variant was detected in South Africa which had relative resistance to the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
Recently, we noticed that the centre of gravity of the pandemic has shifted from China to Italy, from there to the United States, then to Brazil and now to India.
There were different variants, but each of them had some particular properties which made it dangerous.
Now, this Indian variant has properties from both the UK and the South African variant. Hence, it is called a 'double' variant and is more dangerous than the previous ones.
This 'double' variant is not going to affect us immediately; it has just entered the country, so there is no immediate risk.
It will create clusters now but within three months we might see a massive jump in infection.
The spike we witnessed at the end of March this year was the result of our reckless attitude in December and January.
That means, whether our health sector will be affected or not depends on the number of infections and our current activities.
For now, the number is insignificant, hence its implication seems insignificant. Once the number jumps, its implication is going to be completely different. Clearly, we are not capable of handling a massive jump in numbers.
If we look at our current situation, we will see that people are going home to their families and going to markets for Eid shopping.
If this continues, the infection cannot be controlled and we might see an inevitable spike in August.
Hence, we need to take a few steps quickly. All communication with India has been halted for a time, and it should be continued till community transmission remains active in India.
Moreover, we must strictly follow the health guidelines to get effective results.
Another thing that we need to ensure is mandatory quarantine for every passenger coming to Bangladesh.
There should not be any scope for a catalyst to aggravate the situation. Passengers have to be in quarantine for 14 days, even if they do not exhibit any symptoms.
We saw that our national cricketers Mustafizur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan returned home on a charter plane just a few days ago and it was said that they will be in quarantine for three to seven days.
Such exceptions should not be made and should not be appreciated. These practices will not bring anything good; they will only raise risks for everyone.
Those who are infected by this strain need to be kept in isolation and observed closely.
Transport movement, any public gathering and communication need to be restricted or kept extremely limited as soon as possible.
We are not capable of tackling the situation if this strain hits us like India or Nepal.
Only if we increase our precautionary measures, then there might be a small chance, but we do not see any preparations yet.
For us, it is a proportional math – the higher the infection will be, the more hospital beds we will need.
Are we prepared to handle the infection if it increases by 1,200 times like Nepal? We are not.
The author is former director (Disease Control), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)