Experts fear Covid catastrophe amid positivity rate crossing 20pc in Bangladesh

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Public health experts have warned that the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh could take a catastrophic turn in the wake of a dramatic surge in Covid-19 infections throughout the country and in particular, the border districts.

On Wednesday, the positivity rate from the daily sample tests exceeded 20 per cent, up from 15 per cent just seven days earlier, bdnews24.com reports.

Over the last nine days, the rate has been more than the average 13.41 per cent in the 15 months since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country.

As many as 28,256 samples were tested in 554 labs across the country in the 24 hours to 8am Wednesday.

During that time, the government reported 5,727 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily count in two and a half months, with a positivity rate of 20.27 per cent.

The health directorate has reiterated the need for strict compliance and enforcement of health and safety protocols.

Highlighting the alarming upturn in Covid-19 patients, DGHS spokesman Amin backed the government's decision to seal off Dhaka's surrounding districts in a bid to contain the spread of the infection.

"Everyone needs to work together to deal with the Covid situation, give hospitals a chance to prepare and reduce the death toll. Health rules must be followed. If not, the health directorate fears that the situation could worsen.”

Experts warned that more danger lies ahead as no effective measures have been taken in the country's border districts to curb the spread of the Delta strain of the coronavirus, originating in neighbouring India.

The situation in Khulna, a recent hotspot, has continued to deteriorate as the division saw a daily positivity rate of more than 40 per cent. Meanwhile, Rajshahi, which has also borne the brunt of the pandemic in recent weeks, saw about 20 per cent of its tested samples return positive results on Wednesday.

The daily positivity rate in the country had been over 20 per cent for months during the first wave, reaching a record 33.04 per cent on Jul 12.

In January and February this year, the rate dropped below 5 per cent before the second wave when the Beta variant, first detected in South Africa, became dominant.

But infections began to spiral again in March, culminating in the second wave of the pandemic in April. Over 100,000 cases were logged over a 16-day period in April, the fastest upturn since the start of the outbreak.

Bangladesh also posted its highest daily caseload of 7,626 in April. As many as 1,000 people died from Covid-19 in 15 days, and on Apr 19, a single-day record of 112 deaths were registered by the health directorate.

However, the pandemic began to ease once again from mid-April. From mid-May onwards, the number of daily Covid-19 cases fluctuated between 1,000 and 1,500, prompting talk of taming the second wave by government ministers.

But since the beginning of June, daily cases began to rise once again. The daily count crossed 3,000 after one and a half months on Jun 15.

Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, an adviser to the World Health Organization, said the seeds of the latest spike were sown when the government failed to ‘lock down’ the border districts as soon as the Delta variant was detected.

"It is normal for infections to increase because we allowed the Delta strain to be nurtured in the border districts and spread to different cities."

"If effective measures were taken when the 20-25 patients were caught, the virus wouldn't have spread," Dr Be-Nazir added.

The public health expert, also a former director of the health directorate's disease control branch, feared the situation could deteriorate further.

"Without taking measures to isolate, quarantine and trace contacts of patients, it is hard to tell who could be spreading the infection."

"The measures taken by the health directorate to control the situation are ineffective. Further spread of the virus is inevitable."