• Wednesday, Jan 27, 2021
  • Last Update : 07:14 pm

Covid-19 management: What is Bangladesh doing ahead of the second wave?

  • Published at 10:17 pm November 23rd, 2020
Covid-19 virus
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also put emphasis on utilizing the recent massive improvement in medical facilities and executing a newly settled plan to achieve a falling curve of the infection in the second wave

The government has forecasted that the Covid-19 situation will worsen in the coming winter especially in December and January.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already alerted the people to follow the health guidelines due to the increasing trend of coronavirus infection. 

She has also put emphasis on utilizing the recent massive improvement in medical facilities and executing a newly settled plan to achieve a falling curve of the infection in the second wave.    

However, experts say, though the government has improved medical facilities across the country to fight against the coronavirus outbreak, handling the deadly pandemic still remains chaotic in Bangladesh.

Although the government prepared more than 100 public and private hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients, over 8,000 beds remain vacant everyday across the country as patients mostly rush to a few hospitals like Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) or Kurmitola General Hospital in the capital.

Getting treatment from some costly hospitals like Square Hospitals or Evercare Hospital Dhaka is quite pleasing for the posh people of the country due to sound arrangement for dealing with Covid-19.

However, the overall treatment is not satisfactory, experts said, as in many cases patients do not have trust in the treatment process following the Regent Hospital scam in Dhaka amid the pandemic.

"Preparation is better now for tackling the second wave compared to March-April, the beginning of the outbreak. But once mismanagement in hospitals or hassle is reported, it hampers the total treatment process and as a result, people lose their confidence in the medical services," said Dr Tarek Hossain, a former program coordinator at Unicef in Bangladesh.

"Decentralizing the medical services should be ensured as patients now mostly rush to some popular or posh hospitals in Dhaka," he added.

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 which was later named Sars-CoV-2.

As of Sunday, the country has so far recorded 6,388 deaths and 447,341 cases from Covid-19, a pandemic announced by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Preparation

March 19

November 19

Testing lab

1

117

Per day test capacity

250

19,500

PPE stock

6,000

210,267

Dedicated hospital

1

128

Dedicated bed

180

11,459

Isolation bed

5,293

29,349

Dedicated ICU bed

4

559

Doctors trained up for Covid-19

160 

6,000 

Online service provided by doctors

50 

1,950 

Dedicated oxygen cylinder 

16

13,602

Source: DGHS

Comparison of preparation between March and November

Bangladesh started taking preparation to choke the spread of coronavirus infection since the beginning of 2020, though arrangements for fighting against the pandemic accelerated after March 8.

Bangladesh had only a single testing lab for coronavirus in IEDCR (Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research) with a capacity of testing 250 samples per day. 

Testing capacity increased from April as the number of patients jumped. Now there are 117 laboratories with a capacity of testing 19,500 samples per day.

According to documents, the government has been implementing two projects for purchasing a total of 380 RT-PCR machines. Once the projects are implemented, it will be possible to do 69,902 tests each day from the beginning of the next year. 

Besides, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) will appoint around 2,000 technicians to facilitate the sample collection process, said Dr Sheikh Md Hasan Imam, DGHS director (administration).

 At the outset of the pandemic, the country had insufficient health safety equipment like personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, and masks for which a huge number of doctors, nurses, technicians, and other medical staff were infected. 

Officials said now the government has a stock of more than 200,000 PPE and a bulk amount of other protective equipment.

There were below 200 beds for the Covid-19 patients in March which now stands at 11,459 until November 19. Dedicated ICU (intensive care unit) beds have been increased to over 550 from only four across the country.

At the same time, the number of oxygen cylinders now stands at 13,602, high flow nasal cannula 604, and oxygen concentrator 395 which were almost not available in the first outbreak period.

Dr Tarek Hossain said: "Covid-19 treating hospitals in the country are mostly equipped now, and doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are also trained and confident to face the second wave.

"The stock of equipment is satisfactory and the treatment process is now unified across the country."

Will the increased facilities be enough to tackle the second wave?

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the authorities have already shown the capacity of tackling coronavirus infection.

"We have made a plan to fight against the projected second wave with the existing resources," he said at a meeting held last week in the conference room of the Health Ministry.

According to the plan, the government will immediately increase testing facilities as antigen policy is already approved. There will be multiple testing labs in each district.

Flow of medicines and vaccines for treating influenza will be ensured throughout the winter season. 

The government has tightened the screenings for the inbound passengers as expatriates were the main cause for spreading coronavirus in Bangladesh in March. Now the government does not allow the entry of inbound passengers without a negative Covid-19 certificate. 

In addition, the government has given importance to importing the Covid-19 vaccine immediately after its release.

"The health employees are now experienced over the tackling Covid-19 patients and many hospitals, even in the grassroots level, are also prepared now to fight against the second wave," said Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice chancellor at BSMMU.

"As guidelines, framework and action plan have already been developed by the government, it can be easier to tackle the second wave comparatively," said Dr Nazrul, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19. 

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