In an interview with Dhaka Tribune's Syed Samiul Basher Anik, WHO Bangladesh’s Communication Officer Catalin Bercaru has said that continued efforts to detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts are now the key concern in terms of preparedness to prevent Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh
What are the key concerns in terms of preparedness and access?
Covid-19 is a global challenge and tremendous efforts are employed worldwide for preparedness, early detection and response towards the current epidemic.
Bangladesh is also part of these efforts, with ongoing preparation, efforts for early detection and case management. Preparedness is ongoing, being scaled up continuously in terms of supplies, PPEs, testing capacity or capacity building for health workers and health facilities. Of critical importance are continued efforts to detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts.
However, if the misinformation is further spreading and people are starting to panic, access to proper health care for the people infected can become a major challenge.
A very important message that people must understand and follow is that if they have mild symptoms of the disease --- fever, coughing, sneezing --- they should not go directly to health facilities but contact the health provider in advance.
By going to the health facilities, the result will only be the overburdening of those facilities and increasing the chance to spread the disease.
How do you evaluate the coronavirus situation in Bangladesh?
Currently, Bangladesh is facing a limited cluster of cases. However, this situation may evolve and physical distancing measures can slow down the virus, so that the healthcare system can cope; but they will not stop this pandemic purely in their own right. To turn the pandemic around, countries need to invest in a comprehensive and blended approach.
Do you think testing of every suspect to identify the patients and isolating them from society are mandatory in the larger interest? It has been reported that the number of testing kits is inadequate in Bangladesh. How can we overcome this?
At the current stage, suspects who fit the “at risk” definition and having an epidemiological link are being tested.
Regarding the testing capacity, as you know, there is currently a global shortage of Covid-19 related equipment and supplies, including tests. Bangladesh is currently scaling up the testing capacities with new laboratories across the country starting the Covid-19 testing soon.
Covid-19 tests and reagents have been already distributed and additional tests are currently imported or are received as donations from supporting countries.
In a situation where community transmissions are taking place, how can Bangladesh tackle the situation? Currently, only the IEDCR is testing the suspected patients. Do you think Bangladesh should allow private labs to do the tests?
Currently, more laboratories across the country are getting ready to start doing the tests and they will join the IEDCR in the testing efforts.
Most Bangladeshi people, who were put on self-quarantine at home, are roaming about freely. How can we tackle this problem more efficiently?
This is an important issue and a gap in efforts to limit the spread of this disease. For tackling this issue, additional efforts are needed from personal, community and official levels.
People must understand that they are endangering others if they do not respect the quarantine. Communities should be aware of the risk posed by people not respecting the instructions.
Furthermore, member states have, in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to legislate and to implement legislation, in pursuit of their health policies, even if this involves the restriction of movement of individuals.
What will be your suggestions to people or the authorities to keep people safe from getting infected?
Simple public health measures are critical and anyone can contribute to sharing them to their personal or professional networks.
Practicing hand hygiene, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and practicing social distancing or avoiding mass gatherings cannot be emphasized enough. These alone have the potential to substantially reduce transmission.
Self-initiated isolation by people with mild diseases will continue to be the most important community intervention to reduce the burden on the health system and reduce virus transmission.