National advisory panel urges government to control mass gatherings during Eid rush
Leading public health experts and virologists have warned that Bangladesh is likely to experience a third wave of Covid-19 outbreak at the beginning of June.
Virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told Dhaka Tribune that he was not optimistic about Bangladesh’s chances of avoiding another surge in Covid-19 cases for two reasons.
“Firstly, the Indian variant has already been detected in the country at a time when the mad rush on the ferries, transports and shopping malls means social distancing is not maintained,” said Dr Nazrul, also the former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
“Secondly, the vaccine rollout is not satisfactory in the country due to a shortage of doses,” he added.
Earlier, the advisory commitee delivered their forecast of the Covid-19 situation, considering the Indian variants, to the government. “In a letter to the government last week, we suggested that the homebound journey be controlled at any cost,” said Prof Nazrul Islam.
Dr Tarek Hussain, a public health expert at the Asian Development Bank, said: “The rate at which the Indian variants spread is 42% higher than other variants. Uncontrolled mass gatherings at ferry terminals and shopping malls at this time will be the cause of the third wave in the country.
“If the gatherings continue till Eid-ul-Fitr, the impact will be visible two weeks later [at the beginning of June].”
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As of May 7, a total 3.4 million people (about 2% of the country's population) received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Less than 5.82 million people (3.6% of the population) have received the first dose.
According to the World Health Organization, a country needs to vaccinate about 70% of its population for a chance of herd immunity.
“As we do not have the ideal vaccination coverage, we should prepare the hospitals again by ensuring smooth supply of oxygen to the ICUs to tackle the third wave,” said Dr Tarek.
The Health Ministry has also projected a fresh surge if people continued to be indifferent to health rules.
On Sunday, local administrations shut ferry services completely, with even services for ambulances suspended in the daytime. Emergency service vehicles have been requested to use alternative means to cross the rivers.
“The chances of mutation increases due to the presence of more variants and the gatherings. It is essential to control mass gatherings to avoid a new surge,” said Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, adviser at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.
“India is suffering because of mass gatherings through political rallies and violence,” he added.