There is a possibility of Covid infections rising after March 2022, says expert
Bangladesh has been maintaining a below or around 2% daily Covid-19 infection rate for the past few weeks and on average the trend of Covid-19 has been downward across the country since the latest spike in August.
With the ongoing mass vaccination efforts and a stable Covid-19 situation, the question arises whether Bangladesh has defeated the pandemic altogether or another spike could be on the way.
Tahsin Mahmud Sadman, medical officer of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital, said that local hospitals were witnessing a lower number of patients due to the lower infection rate. However, they were prepared to face any situation.
“Out of our 26 ICU beds, only seven to eight beds on average are occupied by patients nowadays. Not only the rate of Covid but I think the severity of the pandemic has also decreased,” he said.
Bangladesh last tallied an infection rate of over 3% on October 4 when the figure stood at 3.19%. Since then, the daily infection rate has not crossed the 3% threshold.
Is the pandemic over?
Bangladesh recorded the lowest number of Covid cases than in the previous two months with only 11,506 cases, according to data aggregated by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) till October 24. However, according to experts, the flatline should not be a reason for complacency.
“We can never say Covid is gone from our country unless the global trend says so. On the contrary, in many nations we are seeing that the infection is rising again,” said Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Advisor Mushtaq Hussain.
As Covid appears to be on the prowl once again globally since the beginning of this week, many countries, including Russia, the UK, China and some in Eastern Europe have witnessed a significant rise in infections.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also predicted last week that the pandemic would drag on to 2022 due to the uneven distribution of vaccination across the world.
Meanwhile, researchers have identified a new variant, known as the new Delta Plus or AY 4.2 variant of the coronavirus, in neighbouring India. The new Delta Plus is already causing a surge of infections in developed nations like the UK and Israel.
“This is certainly a variant of interest, but nothing has appeared to be worried about. However, the discovery of a new variant in a neighbouring country always tells us to be more cautious,” said Dr Mushtaq.
In October 2020, on average 1,500 cases were recorded each day whereas the number is around 500 this year, nearly three times less than in the previous year.
The effect of a lower infection rate is already noticeable among netizens who are prone to ignoring health etiquette.
“Both pros and cons are there of people not being afraid of Covid anymore. We can see a lot of people becoming more relaxed about following the health guidelines. They are aware of the safety measures but reluctant to comply,” said Dr Sadman.
Vaccination not behind lower infection rate
As of now, 12% of the total population of the country has been fully vaccinated, although the figure has to be at least 80% to achieve full vaccination status.
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Virologist Prof Dr Nazrul Islam said the benefits of mass vaccination would definitely be noticed till March 2022, but after that, there was a possibility of rising infections.
“It cannot be said for sure why the trend of Covid is down because there are no conclusive data. But we are assuming that the presence of other respiratory viruses, such as influenza and pneumonia, is higher in our country. This creates a situation of virus interference which is impeding Covid from entering our system,” said Dr Nazrul Islam.
The expert said that research was underway, to be launched next month to study the reason behind the low infection; it would also explore the prospect of herd immunity.