• Sunday, Feb 28, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:55 pm

Bangladesh close to turning the corner on Covid-19?

  • Published at 09:08 pm January 21st, 2021
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People wearing mask on Dhaka street Reuters

Since January 6, the daily test-positivity rate has remained between 4% and 6%

As Bangladesh prepares to vaccinate its population, while the daily test-positivity rate continues on a downward trend, there are speculations on whether Covid-19 will become endemic in the country.

The term endemic is used to describe a disease that is present permanently in a region or population.

Soon people will receive vaccines to gain immune responses against the virus. However, experts think a significant number of people in Bangladesh have already developed natural immunity against the virus.

Additionally, as the daily test-positivity rate remains below 5% for three days straight, some experts think Covid-19 could probably become endemic in Bangladesh.

However, virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19 Prof Nazrul Islam told Dhaka Tribune it was too early to declare that Covid-19 had become endemic in Bangladesh.

“We cannot say with any certainty that it has turned endemic already. We need to wait for at least two or three weeks to see whether the positivity rate remains below 5% or not.  However, considering the fact that the vaccination process will start soon and probably a significant number of people have developed natural immunity, I think Covid-19 could become endemic soon,” he said.

Low test-positivity rate

According to data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Covid-19 daily test-positivity rate was 20% or higher in August.

The infection rate was over 15% on September 5 but then started to go down. The daily test-positivity rate climbed to 15% again in late November and continued to rise till December 7.

The infection rate then started to decrease after December 7 and later it came down to 10% for the first time since April 6.

Finally, since January 6, the positivity rate has remained between 6% and 4%.

Seeking anonymity, a top epidemiologist of the country told Dhaka Tribune that the low daily test-positivity rates showed that there was a possibility that people had achieved herd immunity area-wise.

He told Dhaka Tribune: “It is true that Bangladesh did not have the capacity to test a huge number of people. However, it is possible to understand the trend from the data we receive from the government.”

“The daily test-positivity rate is going down, the vaccines are here, and it seems many people have antibodies against the virus in their system. Therefore, we can say Covid-19 in Bangladesh is heading toward becoming endemic,” he said.

However, people – both asymptomatic and positive cases – have attained natural immunity but there is not enough data to know how long they will have the antibodies in their system, he said, adding: “Fighting Covid-19  in Bangladesh should be a holistic approach. We need to vaccinate people and follow health guidelines.” 

Recovery rate on the rise

Statistics provided by the DGHS show that there is a very narrow margin between the number of people infected and the number of people recovering from Covid-19. The number of positive cases and recovery cases have been almost identical for the last two months.

In the last two and a half months, some 119,661 people were infected while some 147,835 people have recovered from the infection.

According to the DGHS data, 89.59% patients out of 530,271 infected people have recovered from Covid-19 as of Thursday, while the recovery rate was 79.64% in the first week of November. 

Virologist Nazrul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: “There are four types of viruses that attack people in Bangladesh in winter. They are – influenza A virus, parainfluenza 3, respiratory syncytial virus and rhinovirus.”

“Respiratory viruses usually cannot enter a host’s body when any of those four types of viruses is already present in their system. We had thought that Covid-19 would hit Bangladesh hard in winter. Instead, both case positivity rate and death rate went down,” he said.

He added that he assumed many people in Bangladesh were exposed to one of the above-mentioned viruses during winter. Covid-19 probably could not infect as many people as had been anticipated since many were already infected by other respiratory viruses.

“Covid-19 acted is unpredictable till now. I assume it will not go away completely. However, it will slow down significantly in the coming days,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

As of Thursday, 387 out of 598 intensive care units designated for Covid-19 patients were vacant in the country. And out of 10,381 general hospital beds designated for Covid-19 patients, 8,493 were vacant.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday said Bangladesh was doing well compared to developed countries like the US and the UK.

“There was an anticipation that a second wave of Covid-19 might hit Bangladesh.  However, it seems that the second wave did not happen in Bangladesh,” he said.

Virologist Islam thinks it is a good sign that the positivity rate is going down and he hopes it will continue to go down. However, he recommends making it a habit of wearing masks and washing hands since vaccinating the whole population will take a long time.

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