• Thursday, Oct 29, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:45 am

Bangladesh into 100 days of pandemic

  • Published at 08:13 pm June 15th, 2020
Ferry Shimulia Ghat Mehedi Hasan
File photo: Homegoers flock to the Shimulia-Kathalbari ferry terminal in Munshiganj to head home for the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays on Monday, May 18, 2020 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh, like Pakistan and India, is yet to reach a Covid-19  peak

Since the first three Covid-19 positive cases detected about a 100 days ago, infections have climbed to over 90,000 and yet the country is nowhere close to reaching the peak before a decline gets underway.

At this juncture, the country is still making interventions on containing the spread of the virus and developing treatment facilities.

India and Pakistan too did not reach the peak of infections in the first 100 days. However, data from Worldometer show that considering the population of India (137+ crore) and Pakistan (22+ crore), Bangladesh (16+ crore) has been worst hit by the virus in the first 100 days.

On the 100th day of the virus, India had some 59,695 confirmed cases while Pakistan recorded some 89,249 cases. Till yesterday, Bangladesh had recorded 90,619 cases.

After crossing the 100-day mark, the other two South Asian countries were hit hard by the virus and now India has a total of 322,612 cases, making it the fourth highest, while Pakistan has some 139,230 cases, at 15th place in terms of infections.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh is 18th as far as infections on a global scale are concerned. 

Experts suggest if testing facilities were to increase, the infection rate would have been higher.

According to the Health Directorate data, more than 17% of Covid-19 tests come back positive. And from May 15 to June 15, more than 19% cases came back positive. For the last one month, Bangladesh has recorded more than 2,200 cases per day.

In the last 24 hours, Bangladesh recorded some 3,099 cases with 38 deaths.

On May 21, Habibur Rahman Khan, additional secretary and chief of the media cell of the health division, stated that the country had hit its peak, which would continue for the following two weeks. After that, cases would begin to decline.

However, seeking anonymity, a high official of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the country was in static peak stages, as it had been experiencing around 3,000 cases for the last few days. “It will be hard to assume when the peak day will come, for the current situation may continue for another month.”

Interventions and treatment procedure still in development

The Health Ministry started preparations from late January to ensure proper preventive and curative measures. But soon after the virus emerged in March, all measures proved futile.

Although 100 days have elapsed since the first detection, preventive measures such as zoning, testing, quarantining and isolation are still not upto the mark, experts say.

Besides, minimum cure still cannot be guaranteed as the country expects a surge in confirmed cases in the coming days.

Implementing lockdowns in the name of general holidays could provide little to no help. And, keeping the economic wheels turning at a minimal pace, the country has opted for zone-based lockdown.

To identify the areas, the Health Ministry has formed working groups. The groups have finalized a list of areas hit most. They are Dhaka city, Chittagong city, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Narsingdi.

A member of the group said while implementing the zonal lockdown they have experienced some problems, such as those related to many people moving from one residence to another, soon after hearing about the lockdown.

Besides, directives need to be ensured about the areas having a huge population workforce, the official added.

According to the guidelines of the DGHS, local administration with the support of Covid-19 committees will execute zone-based lockdowns across the country.

National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (Nipsom) Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed said the zonal approach should have been made before a lifting of the lockdown.

He, however, questioned the idea of the committee being administered by the local administration and suggested that there should be a full-swing health team, including gynecologists and medicine physicians, under public health experts for every red and yellow zone or an upazila marked as one.

Need for oxygen supply

Local administrations would help the team by providing data so that all activities should not be stopped, especially in areas where lockdowns are not needed.

He also opined in favour of ensuring oxygen supply in every hospital.

“We are somehow at the level of minimum testing in the country. Antigen and antibody tests should have been introduced by now,” Be-Nazir said. 

“Besides, since there is no medicine yet invented for Covid-19 treatment, for critical patients oxygen supply will be the key,” he added.

DGHS DPM (Health Services) Dr Supriya Sarkar said to solve the pulse oximeter problem, the authorities had already distributed 700 machines, mostly in Dhaka, obtained from INGOs.

When approached, DGHS Director (hospital) Dr Aminul Hasan said that they had started building a central oxygen supply system in every district hospital in the country.

A letter was sent to the additional secretary (hospital) on June 14 with directives to set up central oxygen lines and liquid central oxygen tanks in 39 hospitals.

Asked about an increase in the number of beds, he said the authorities were working to ensure more beds in the country. The Covid-19 specialized Bashundhara hospital was prepared to receive patients from yesterday.

The 1,390-bed DNCC hospital in Mohakhali is being managed by the army and would start operations soon, he added.

Less number of ICUs

A visit to the DNCC hospital revealed that the hospital had received 50 ICU beds but the equipment was yet to be had.

Asked about the matter, Aminul said recently a committee had been formed to buy the artificial machines.

According to the DGHS hospital unit, some 6,250 general and 137 ICUs beds for Covid-19 patients had been ensured.

But several officials at the city hospitals said the number of beds was in fact lower for general patients as they had to ensure a distance for Covid-19 patients.

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