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Experts: No lessons learnt from Covid-19 first wave

  • Published at 07:19 pm April 12th, 2021
Crowd, traffic between Gausia and Hawkers Market Dhaka 9 April 2021
The road between Dhanmondi Hawkers' Market and Gausia Market in Dhaka is packed with traffic and shoppers on Friday, April 9, 2021, Day 5 of the week-long lockdown that was imposed across Bangladesh to curb the alarming rise of Covid-19 transmission Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The health system is struggling to cope with the rise in coronavirus infections, they said during a webinar organised by Bangladesh Health Watch (BHW) titled 'The Second Wave and Covid-19 Management' Monday afternoon

The recent spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths is the result of the country’s failure to use last year’s experience, according to public health experts.

The health system is struggling to cope with the rise in coronavirus infections, they said during a webinar organised by Bangladesh Health Watch (BHW) on the theme, “The Second Wave and Covid-19 Management”, Monday afternoon.

BHW Executive Committee Member AM Zakir Hossain, as the keynote speaker, said that it was not possible to confirm that all the members of the government's advisory and expert committees were infectious disease specialists. 

“Policymakers have not been paying attention to experts while administrative people are given more importance in the decision-making process,” said Zakir Hossain, who is a former director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

“The Covid-19 variants from South Africa and the United Kingdom were first identified three months ago,” he claimed. “Had the government disclosed it earlier, people could have been more aware of the spread.”

Panelists at the webinar said that the decisions on enforcing lockdowns had been taken without assessing basic information and that community involvement had been ignored in the process.

Zakir Hossain said that the country needed around 12,000 ICU beds to handle the situation. 

“It is not just a corona situation; what is needed is to ensure longevity. Antigen tests are 50% negative and RTPCR tests are 30% negative. After this negative came to be known, it is not yet clear how to identify it accurately. 

“There was no communication strategy to deal with the corona situation,” he added.

For his part, IEDCR Advisor Mushtaq Hussain said that there was a communication strategy for the Covid-19 situation. “However, questions may arise regarding the extent of its implementation and achievement. When the antigen test has a negative result, it is sent for RTPCP tests. There are rules.”

He said that research on the effectiveness of vaccines had been underway since the first day of the corona vaccination programme. The icddrb is working to know when antibodies are produced in humans.

Mentioning that corona infection had increased in the country due to various indoor and outdoor programmes and activities in January and February, Mushtaq suggested that public movement be controlled for two weeks to curb the infection rate and three weeks to reduce the number of deaths.

Professor Dr Liaquat Ali, honorary advisor at Pothikrit Institute of Health Studies, said that a lockdown should be announced 15 days ahead of the peak time of infection. “But this peak modeling is not possible in the country as the number of tests is limited and they are not 100% accurate. A one-week lockdown may not prevent infections effectively.”

The authorities should engage the people before announcing a lockdown. “Issuing an order without community-level support might backfire,” he added.

Dr Liaquat mentioned that the health minister had acknowledged the lack of adequate infrastructure. “There are still opportunities to increase the capacity of the health sector. It could be increased based on experience from the last one year. But it did not happen.”

BHW Convenor Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury,  a professor of Columbia University, conducted the webinar session.

He said: “No one has forgotten the first wave of the coronavirus infection. Many things have been tried, but not scientifically. Nothing has been learnt from the shortcomings during the first wave which could have been used in the second wave.”  

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