• Saturday, Apr 17, 2021
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What can the India experience tell Bangladesh about Covid-19?

  • Published at 12:34 pm April 4th, 2020
India-Nizamuddin
Men, who according to health and police officials had visited three Muslim missionary gatherings including in Nizamuddin area of New Delhi, wearing protective masks sit in an ambulance that will take them to a quarantine facility amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Ahmedabad, India, on April 3, 2020 Reuters

Many countries listened to WHO and benefited, while many others did not and are paying a heavy price

The experience of India next door with respect to testing and the prevalence of Covid-19 may provide clues as to which way things could go in Bangladesh in the coming weeks and months.

India had a five week head-start on Bangladesh, with the first Covid-19 case recorded there on January 30, whereas the first case in Bangladesh was recorded on March 8.

Thereafter, it is instructive to see how and where our paths in fighting the virus have corresponded and how and where they have diverged.

About four weeks after our first case, Bangladesh has recorded 70 confirmed Covid-19 cases and eight deaths, having tested 2,853 suspected patients.

By comparison, 28 days after the first case was recorded in India, the country had recorded only three cases of Covid-19 and no deaths.

However, as India has started to test more, the number of cases and deaths has shot up.

Six weeks after its first recorded case, on March 15, India’s number of cases had risen to 99, though still with only two deaths.

But by April 4, two months and change after the first recorded case, India’s numbers had shot up to 2,902 cases and 68 deaths.

Look at the trajectory of India’s Covid-19 deaths:

The first death was recorded on March 12. Within the next two weeks, March 26, this number had risen to 20. And now, just one week later, the Indian death toll is 68.

This tracks with a parallel rise in cases in India.

As late as March 12, the day of the first recorded death, there were as few as 74 total cases recorded in India. Today, there are 2,902.

Testing

Much of this uptick in numbers can be attributed to a more robust testing regimen over the past month, compared with the first month. By March 29, India had tested over 35,000, and today that number has almost doubled, just shy of 70,000.

By contrast, even with a recent uptick in testing, Bangladesh has still tested only 2,853, as of April 4.

Of them, 740 were tested on Saturday alone, which is the highest number in a single day.

Bangladesh is still one of the lowest testing countries in the world.

Even adjusting for population, it is clear that Bangladesh’s testing is way behind India.

Virologists say that the next few days are crucial as the second incubation period is going to end on Sunday when it will be possible to say something more about the pattern of the virus in Bangladesh.

The number of infected people is still one of the lowest considering the size of population, according to official figures.

But, even the most optimistic person in the country would agree that there are likely more infected people out there, who have simply not been traced because of fewer tests.

What to expect

If the example of India across the border is anything to go by — and until recently in terms of testing numbers and protocols, it looked as though the Indian experience was the one most analogous to that of Bangladesh — then we need to brace ourselves for a sudden jump in Covid-19 numbers within the next few weeks, despite the efficacy of the recent government shutdown, which one hopes has certainly had a salutary impact in tackling the crisis.

To have recorded only eight deaths within four weeks since the first Covid-19 fatality on March 18 is a very encouraging sign. Typically, the deaths multiply at a far faster rate than we have seen so far in Bangladesh.

But we are a long way from being out of the woods. It is still only four weeks from the first recorded case of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, and if the experience of neighbouring India is anything to go, the next three weeks are absolutely critical.

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