• Thursday, Jun 04, 2020
  • Last Update : 08:31 am

Why we need to extend the shutdown

  • Published at 10:33 pm March 30th, 2020
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In addition, as some more testing facilities have been set up across the country, more cases of infections may emerge

Health experts in Bangladesh have stressed the urgent need for caution right now since community level transmission of coronavirus has already begun on a limited scale.

A month ago, the US  announced that community transmission had started in their country. WHO warned the US six days ago that it can become the next epicentre.

Twenty two days have passed since the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Bangladesh. And, five days ago, evidence of community transmission surfaced.

Experts said, the next ten days are crucial for the pandemic in Bangladesh, as the real situation of the outbreak might be unmasked during this time. However, if people could maintain social distancing for a total of 14 days, it would minimize risks.

In addition, as some more testing facilities have been set up across the country, more cases of infections may emerge.  

Seeking anonymity, several top officials of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told Dhaka Tribune that, had Bangladesh barred people from leaving Dhaka on a large scale, following the announcement of public holidays from March 26 for ten days, it could soon have a clearer picture.

“If those who left for their villages return to urban areas on April 4, there is a chance they will infect more people,” said an expert not wishing to be named. 

He said, if the holidays could be extended for five more days, it would give a 14-day cycle for recovery. 

DGHS Additional Director General Nasima Sultana said: “ If many people contracted the virus during the rush to home, it will bring disaster.”

Public health expert Dr Rashid E Mahbub said that the government has initiated some kind of intervention, including imposing an unannounced lockdown.

But from the beginning, the authorities failed to stop the return of expatriates, or to screen them correctly. They also were not able to ensure home quarantine of all the returnees, which is worrying, he added.

The government has gone with a lockdown and this needs to be extended to keep the country more secure or to figure out the real situation, the expert said.

“We fear that any government lapse would bring disaster as the health sector of the country does not have the strength to provide treatment for all,” he added.        

Professor Kamrul Hasan Khan of the Department of Pathology at BSMMU, echoing Dr Rashid’s opinion, said the real situation of the country will be visible in the first ten days of April.

Citing India’s 21-day lockdown and extension of the US' social distancing campaign until April 30, he expressed hope that the prime minister would take the right decision after assessing the country’s situation.

The context of a global scenario and the scenario in South Asia is different. The sociocultural system gave better immunity to its residents compared to that of the developed world, the pathologist explained.

However, it is not enough. The intervention needs to continue. And, if the country passes the first ten days of April without a major shift, one could assume that we might escape the first wave of attack, the professor said.

ABM Abdullah, an academic and the personal physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said the decision for closure will be taken by the administration.

“I think four or five more days can be extended as part of completing the ideal quarantine time of 14 days,” he added.

Goal to reproduction below one

The purpose of a lockdown, explains a new study from the Imperial College of London’s Covid-19 Response Team, is to reduce reproduction – in other words, to reduce the number of people each confirmed case infects.

The authors of the study said there are two routes to try to get there: The mitigation process which includes isolation and quarantine, and another Suppression process, or basically, lockdown, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels by social distancing the entire population “indefinitely” and closing schools and universities.

The study models show that as painful as lockdowns may be, they are fruitful in mitigating an outbreak.

Without any lockdown or social distancing measures, we can expect peak mortality in approximately three months. In this scenario, 81% of the UK and US populations would be infected, with 510,000 dying in the UK and 2.2 million dying in the US.

To get closer to the goal of reproduction below one, the team suggested: “A combination of case isolation, social distancing of the entire population, and either household quarantine or school and university closure, are required."

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