According to DGHS, 46.71% of the deaths from Covid-19 infection in Bangladesh were from the above 60 age group, and 28.71% of the deaths from 51-60 age group
Bangladesh is set to overtake Italy in terms of number of confirmed Covid-19 cases by this week, although the pandemic reached the European hotspot more than a month earlier compared to the South Asian nation.
Italy became the first country after China, the birthplace of the SARS CoV 2 virus or Covid-19, to be plagued with spiralling cases of infection and deaths. Global media reports suggest that it took Italy five months to bring the situation under control.
According to the worldometers, Italy, a country of 60 million people, reported a total of 248,419 cases and 35,171 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak, ensuring no new cases and deaths recorded in last 24 hours from 9pm of Wednesday.
Although Bangladesh is set to move past Italy to become the 15th mostly Covid-19 affected country in the world, Bangladesh’s death toll from the deadly infection remain far less than the European nation.
As of Wednesday, Bangladesh recorded a total of 246,674 cases with 3,267 deaths since the first detection of Covid 19 cases in the country on March 8.
Bangladesh’s Directorate General of health Services (DGHS), the body responsible to keep track of the status of the pandemic in the country, said 33 deaths and 2,654 new cases were recorded in last 24 hours.
According to worldometers till 9pm of August 5, Italy performed 115,537 tests per million people whereas Bangladesh performed only 7,355 tests per million people.
Why Bangladesh has a lower death toll?
Although no specific reason has been identified that has kept deaths from Covid-19 lower in Bangladesh compared to other nations, public health and healthcare experts believe that the country’s demographic age dividend could be a probable reason.
According to DGHS, 46.71% of the deaths from Covid-19 infection in Bangladesh were from the above 60 age group, and 28.71% of the deaths from 51-60 age group.
Infectious disease expert and National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (NIPSOM) Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed said countries with higher number of deaths mostly have a large percentage of senior citizens in their population.
“Covid 19 is a disease that affects multiple organs in the body. Elderly people, whose bodies have already been compromised, appear to be the biggest victims of the virus,” he added.
He also opined that health authorities in Bangladesh reap the benefit of nothing but the age dividend in this case as there was a clear lack of leadership in the Covid-19 management in the country.
Among the top 25 Covid-19 affected countries, only Qatar, Philippines and Saudi Arabia reported lower number of deaths than Bangladesh.
“In the last five months after the first case of Covid 19 was identified in the country, the government has failed to ensure proper pandemic measures and treatment for all,” said Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement.
“That’s why despite a good number of people being infected till now, a major share of beds in Covid-19 hospitals still remain unoccupied,” he added.
“It is a great fortune for the country that the number of deaths has been lower than anticipated,” said Prof Dr Rashid, who is also a former president of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA).
A DGHS official told Dhaka Tribune that the probable reason behind lower number of deaths may be because the virus appears to be more infectious and less deadly in the country. The official, however, said a valid research needs to be conducted to confirm the cause.
What Bangladesh could have learned from Italy in combating Covid-19?
When Italy was heading towards its peak, Bangladesh was only starting to encounter the disease.
Italy introduced many good practices, including triage for combating coronavirus since early March in a more scientific way.
According to an article -- Lessons from Italy’s Response to Coronavirus – the Harvard Business Review hailed the Covid-19 management measures taken by Italy, specially that of in Lombardy and Veneto region.
According to the report, Veneto’s multi-pronged strategy included extensive testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, proactive tracing of potential positives, strong emphasis on home diagnosis and care, whenever possible, samples collection directly from a patient’s home and then processed in regional and local university labs, specific efforts to monitor and protect health care and other essential workers.
Unfortunately, Bangladesh has learned nothing from Italy’s experience in combating Covid-19, said NIPSOM Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, adding that that’s why when many countries like Italy and Spain in Europe were applying scientific approaches and technologies in fighting the virus, Bangladesh could not manage it properly.
From the very beginning, there were no required number of tests as well as failure in ensuring treatment, isolation and quarantine facilities, he explained.
“That’s why people received the wrong massage and remained unaware,” he added, saying that the mass public was struck by panic at the beginning but has now turned very relaxed towards the pandemic, which could bring a new disaster in the country if a second wave emerges.
On the other hand, healthcare professionals, who are the key to provide health services, were getting infected and the health care facilities remain underutilized, the professor said.