Amid surging Covid-19 cases and fatalities, the government has primarily identified 10 areas of the port city as red zones to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic
Chittagong has now overtaken Dhaka in terms of new Covid-19 cases and fatalities, and the number of infections continues to rise every day.
After analyzing data provided by the Chittagong Civil Surgeon office, it was found that it took only 40 days to cross the 500-mark after the first case of coronavirus was recorded in Chittagong on April 3, and an alarming seven days from there to cross the 1,000-mark on May 20.
On June 2, Chittagong exceeded 3,000 novel coronavirus cases and the 6,000-mark on June 19. As of June 22, Chittagong recorded a total of 6,480 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Amid surging Covid-19 cases and fatalities, the government has primarily identified 10 areas of the port city as red zones to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Chittagong Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said that the number of Covid-19 infections is increasing not only in Chittagong but also all over the country.
“Chittagong is the most populated city after Dhaka. At the same time, we have more testing facilities than other cities. That’s why the rate of Covid-19 infection is higher. People gravitate towards Chittagong as it is the commercial capital. Moreover, people here do not want to follow health regulations,” said the civil surgeon.
At the beginning, the samples of Chittagong were being tested in only one laboratory – Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases – but the testing facilities were later expanded to six laboratories.
Backlog of Covid-19 samples
A Filipino, who was suffering from respiratory problems and fever, gave his sample for a Covid-19 test on June 3. The foreign national died at Chittagong Medical College Hospital on June 19 after undergoing treatment at the hospital for 16 days. However, he could not see the test results in his lifetime.
When asked about the backlog of Covid-19 samples, Dr Rabbi said: “The Covid-19 testing laboratories of Chittagong receive more samples than their capacity. Apart from Chittagong, the laboratories receive test samples sent from Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts. These samples are creating an additional pressure on the laboratories. Moreover, the PCR machines and manpower at the laboratories remain inadequate. Sometimes, people working at the laboratories go for isolation after they test positive for coronavirus. Besides, some people also give samples unnecessarily.”
On June 10, Chittagong Civil Surgeon office said 3,000 swab samples of patients with Covid-19 symptoms were sent to Dhaka for testing as the laboratories in Chittagong were facing a huge backlog of test samples and were unable to handle the workload.
In Chittagong, samples are currently tested in laboratories of the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID), Chittagong Medical College, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (CVASU), Chittagong University, Cox’s Bazar Medical College, and Imperial Hospital.
ICU: A crying need
With rising number of coronavirus infections, Chittagong is also facing an acute shortage of ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds in both public and private hospitals.
According to Chittagong Civil Surgeon office, there are only 25 ICU beds at the government hospitals of Chittagong.
Dr Mahfuzur Rahman, convener of Public Health Rights Protection Committee in Chittagong, said ICU is of paramount importance for the critical care patients.
“There should be 60-70 more ICU beds set up with ventilators at Chittagong Medical College Hospital and Chittagong General Hospital to save Covid-19 patients. Besides, three to five more PCR machines should be installed at the laboratories in Chittagong where Covid-19 samples are now being tested,” said Dr Rahman.
He also said that the process was underway to increase the number of ICU beds at the government hospitals of Chittagong.
“Besides, we are trying to increase the number of high flow nasal cannulas. Setting up an oxygen plant is also necessary for high flow nasal cannulas. Process is underway to install an oxygen plant at Chittagong General Hospital,” said Dr Rabbi.
Burial count outnumbers official death count
According to the information provided by the Chittagong Civil Surgeon office, a total of 144 patients died of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Chittagong till Monday.
The death toll also includes persons who tested positive for Covid-19 after death.
However, two volunteer organizations say they have so far buried 475 bodies in Chittagong, and all of them died of Covid-19 or with coronavirus-like symptoms.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Farid Uddin, chief executive officer (CEO) of Al-Manahil Welfare Foundation, a volunteer organization, said that they have so far buried 235 bodies who had died of Covid-19 or coronavirus-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, Gausia Committee Bangladesh, a Chittagong-based volunteer organization, has so far buried 240 bodies in Chittagong.
Mosaheb Uddin Bakhteyar, joint Secretary General of Gausia Committee Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune that many families of the deceased prefer not to test the samples after death to avoid hassle and embarrassment.
Dr Rabbi said that they were only providing the death list of the Covid-19 positive patients.
“It is alleged that we are not enlisting the people who have died of coronavirus-like symptoms. As a matter of fact, a patient with heart, kidney, high-blood pressure, and diabetes complications may suffer from breathing problems. Respiratory problems do not necessarily mean coronavirus,” said the civil surgeon.
Glimmer of hope
Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) has turned a convention hall into a Covid-19 isolation centre on Agrabad Access Road in the city to facilitate the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
On June 13, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud inaugurated the Covid-19 isolation centre.
The 250-bed isolation centre has already started its operation.
For treating Covid-19 patients, Al-Manahil Welfare Foundation is going to set up a 70-bed hospital at the city’s Halishahar area.
Besides, a physician has taken a personal initiative to set up a 50-bed hospital at Patenga area in the city for treating Covid-19 patients.
Bidyanondo Foundation, an educational voluntary organization, is going to set up a 100-bed field hospital in the port city amid the surging Covid-19 cases and fatalities.
Chittagong Field Hospital, the first of its kind in the country, has been providing treatment to the Covid-19 patients since April 21.
The facility has been set up with 60 beds over around 7,000sqft at Faujdarhat area of Chittagong.
Gausia Committee Bangladesh is also planning to set up a Covid-19 isolation centre in the city.