'If the health guidelines are ignored, I don’t know what’s coming,' says Zahid Maleque
The health authorities in the country have looked into what they will have to do in case of a second wave of Covid 19 and are taking preparations accordingly, according to Prof Khurshid Alam, Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
He also said the health authorities had taken advice from public health experts designated for each division by the directorate.
The DGHS DG was speaking at a discussion on the government’s preparations to tackle a second wave, held at a Dhaka hotel on Tuesday afternoon.
However, the top ranking DGHS official did not disclose any details on the preparations, citing insufficient time to go into them all.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque praised the efforts of health care professionals and subordinate organizations of the Health Ministry during the pandemic.
When asked about the potential for a second wave, the health minister said: “We do not know when the first wave will end, so it is not clear when a second wave will start. There may be an uptick of cases during the winter. So we are taking preparations accordingly.”
Eminent health experts of the country said high priority should be given to preparations for tacking Covid-19 in the winter season as it was an airborne disease.
They also emphasized prevention through following health rules rather than hoping for vaccines, as they are still in the process of development.
Why the risk of upsurge in winter?
Citing guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO), the keynote speaker of the program, Professor Liaquat Ali, former vice-chancellor Bangladesh University of Health Sciences (BUHS), said Bangladesh had a much higher test positivity rate (around 15%) than it should (5%).
He said there were several reasons to believe there would be an upsurge of Covid-19 in winter and he had split them into three parts: environmental factors, host factors and social factors.
Regarding environmental factors, Prof Professor Liaquat said winter was a dry season. As a result, droplets transmitting coronavirus would be vaporized into aerosol and stayed in the air for a longer time.
For host factors, he said sneezing and coughing increased in winter and people also kept their homes closed to stay warm, which might trap contaminated air.
On social factors, he said people became more engaged in socio-political activities in winter. They travelled more and held more public gatherings such as wedding ceremonies and birthday parties as the weather was cooler and more comfortable. These gatherings would create clusters of transmission.
‘Garments order a result of tackling Covid-19 successfully’
Claiming it as a success for the Health Ministry that Bangladesh’s economy had fared better than that of others, the health minister pointed out that the country maintained a positive GDP growth rate while it fell to negative for many developed countries.
“The success of the Health Ministry and DGHS in tackling the pandemic has made it possible to keep garment factories open and orders are coming in even during the pandemic,” Zahid Maleque added.
Recognizing the concerns of experts over the low number of tests for Covid-19, he urged everyone to get tested for Covid-19 even with the minimum symptoms.
Medical Education & Family Welfare Division Secretary Ali Noor, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician Dr ABM Abdullah and President of BPMCA Muhib Khan were present at the program, among others.