Experts say danger not over, keep maintaining health guidelines
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Bangladesh has been on a downward trend over the past week, although with a slight uptick on Monday.
14,216 samples were tested at laboratories across the country in the 24-hours till Monday morning and 1,812 (12.75%) came back positive, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The test positivity rate was 11.35% on Sunday, 11.96% on Saturday, 12.15% on Friday, 12.16% on Thursday, 12.38% on Wednesday and 12.64% on Tuesday. The average test positivity rate over the seven days is 12.2%.
In the month of September, the authorities reported that 13.68% of samples had tested positive for Covid-19 in Bangladesh, so far.
The monthly test positivity rate was 21.49% in June, 22.46% in July, and 20.18% in August.
On March 8, health authorities in Bangladesh reported the first three cases of Covid-19, a severe acute respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus strain named Sars-CoV-2.
Since then, the virus has claimed 4,759 lives and infected 339,332 people in Bangladesh till Monday afternoon, according to DGHS.
Experts urge caution
Despite the downward trend in the test positivity rate, healthcare experts have urged people to maintain caution.
Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dr Nazrul Islam, said the reduced test positivity rate is not something to be relieved about.
“We have to wait for a few more weeks to see the pattern and determine whether it is an improvement or not,” he said.
He also feared transmission may spike in the winter, a view shared by other health experts as well.
“Although the test positivity rate is coming down gradually, there is no alternative to social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and maintaining other health advisories to contain transmission of the novel coronavirus,” said Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, former director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
“The national average is coming down, but it cannot be considered a relief as the rate is still high in some areas, particularly in the border areas and areas where people’s movement is higher,” she pointed out.
Flora, who is now additional director general (planning and development) at the DGHS, said the number of cases in Chuadanga, Jhenaidah, Meherpur, and some districts in northern Bangladesh, are still high.
"Districts like Rajbari and Shariatpur, where there is more movement of people because of ferries operating, are also witnessing higher test positivity rates,” she added.
If people maintained all health advisories, the rate would have come down faster, the DGHS additional director general said.
“The situation is improving, but we cannot come to any conclusions right now even if the test positivity rate keeps going down for a few more days. The coronavirus, which is a pandemic and critical, will now slowly move to an endemic situation, but it will remain,” said Dr Flora.
“Even if the rate remains low, we have to maintain all sorts of precautions. The use of masks, which acts as a non vaccine precautionary measure, has to continue,” she added.