People’s reluctance to abide by health rules is making things worse in Bangladesh
It has been almost a month since the government ordered a strict lockdown and enforcing restrictions on public and vehicle movement.
However, in the fourth week of the lockdown, the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh is not showing any sign of abating.
Public health experts have observed that this lockdown could not bring down the number of deaths and infections, but the restrictions contributed to keeping the Covid-19 situation at bay. Otherwise, the caseload could have been off the charts.
On July 13, the government decided to ease lockdown restrictions in the country for eight days due to Eid-ul-Azha. The restrictions were lifted a day later. The restrictions came into force at 6am on July 23 and will continue till August 5 midnight, unless extended again.
Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Advisor Mushtaq Hussain thinks the lockdown measures alone cannot really bring down the positivity rate as Bangladesh does not have resources and social setting to adopt lockdown models undertaken in countries having good social welfare systems.
“When a county orders a nationwide lockdown, it should not be limited to movement restrictions. Rather, isolating the infected patients, ensuring social distancing, and vaccinating as many people as possible are crucial to reducing the infection rate,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
He added that the situation would have been much worse had the government not enforced the lockdown from the first day of July.
“As we see the data, the numbers did not really go down but it was steady in July. This means the lockdown somewhat controlled the virus from spreading rapidly,” Mushtaq Hussain told Dhaka Tribune. While the numbers remained steady, it would help the health authorities buy some more time to inoculate more people, he added.
On July 1, Bangladesh recorded 143 fatalities as the country went into a strict lockdown with people confined to their homes, except for medical emergencies and to buy essentials. That was the highest number of deaths recorded till July 1.
Bangladesh also logged the second highest positivity rate of 25.9% (till July 1) since the pandemic began. Almost four weeks later, the positivity rate was 28.44 % on July 27.
The positivity rate was 31.62% on July 8. Throughout the month of July, the daily positivity rate hovered around 30%.
During the Eid holidays, the number of infections dropped significantly but the daily positivity rate remained high. The lowest number of single-day infections in July was recorded on July 22. The health authorities recorded 3,697 cases but the positivity rate was 32.19% on July 22.
Virologist Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19, says Bangladesh is not really showing a downward trend in Covid cases even though the number dropped by half during the Eid holidays.
“The positivity rate was still high during the Eid holidays. Therefore, there was not really any progress in the Covid-19 situation,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
The numbers came down because fewer tests were conducted during the holidays, he said.
Despite the countrywide strict lockdown in July, Bangladesh recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll on July 27 and the highest number of single-day cases on July 26.
The health authorities reported 258 deaths and 15,192 new infections on July 26.
Alongside the lockdown and movement restrictions, communities should be involved in monitoring public movement in different neighborhoods, Dr Mushtaq Hussain observed.
He said: “The law enforcement agencies and government officials cannot visit every single corner of the city. People seem to socialize, visit friends and family, and go out to mosques for prayers, though they are requested not to do so. These activities are not helping the authorities bring the numbers down.”