Health Desk – 11 Mar,2021: Highest caseload in two months recorded on Wednesday
February 7 had raised some hope among the health authorities as the daily infection neared the 2% mark—the lowest since April 5 last year.
The figure slumped to 2% on February 21, giving a boost to the then improving Covid-19 situation in the country. However, the story apparently ended there as the daily test-positivity rate has gradually kept mounting, except for a very few days, since then.
Bangladesh yesterday recorded 1,018 new cases, the highest daily caseload in two months, the infection rate being 5.98%.
The sudden rise has raised eyebrows as the upward trend, actually feared for winter, clearly still exists and comes at a time when the government is all set to reopen educational institutions across the country.
Despite not reaching a definitive conclusion over the situation, the health authorities attribute the increase in the daily fresh cases to the reluctance of the general people to abide by mandatory health rules.
Hence, the health authorities and virologists have further emphasised maintaining the minimum social distance, sanitise or wash hands very often and use masks, to ward off the life-threatening consequences of contracting Covid-19.
ABM Khurshid Alam, Director General (DG) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), speaking at a program in Dhaka yesterday (Wednesday) blamed public negligence of health rules for the situation.
The DG, however, confessed that there was no scientific basis for making any conclusion on the matter.
Earlier on Tuesday, drawing attention to the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said that infections in the country were on the rise because people were travelling to different tourist spots like Cox’s Bazar, thereby flouting health safety regulations.
“If we are not aware of and defy the health rules, it’s quite normal that more people would be infected. And so more people are getting admitted in hospitals,” he added.
“People should not think that they are immune to coronavirus after taking only the first dose of the vaccine,” he said.
Bangladesh launched a mass vaccination campaign on February 7.
When contacted, eminent virologist Nazrul Islam too pointed to the surge in public gatherings and overcrowded tourist spots as being the reasons behind the rise in the infection rate.
“This is happening only because health rules, including the use of masks, are widely being flouted,” he observed.
The virus, he said, had been behaving differently in Bangladesh when compared to its nature in many other countries.
“Even though the virus turned weaker during the summer in cold-weather countries, Sars-Cov-2 seems more powerful in tropical countries like Bangladesh,” he said.
Nevertheless, he stressed the need for accurate and intensive research to identify the actual reason behind the upward infection rate.
‘UK variant is not responsible’
The health authorities have brushed aside speculations that the UK variant, detected in samples collected from at least six infected Bangladeshi travellers, was to blame.
The DGHS chief himself said the authorities learnt about the UK variant being confirmed two months ago—but it did not necessarily mean that the variant had fuelled the infection rate.
“We don’t have any evidence or research substantiating that the infection is increasing due to the new strain,” Khurshid Alam said.
ASM Alamgir, Principal Scientific Officer, Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said the six travellers in question had been isolated, hinting that they did not help spread the virus.
The variant has so far been found in 80 countries, including Bangladesh, many of which did not report much on the pandemic being spread by it.
Except in the UK, the new variant was not that powerful in the other countries where its existence had been found, he said.
The six affected—all UK returnees— who carried the variant are currently being treated in Dhaka and Sylhet.
“We’ve been checking if the variant has entered Bangladesh further. In the process, we’re doing complete contact tracing and taking the measures needed,” he said.
The government mandated examination of all UK returnees since early December to ensure the variant does not spread in the country.
Claiming that the variant was not behind the infection rate upsurge, the IEDCR scientist said the situation would not hamper the nationwide vaccination campaign.
“The Covid-19 jabs being administered now are also effective in tackling the new variant,” he concluded.
Fresh directives to stop the spike
Following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s instructions to prevent the viral disease, the cabinet division on Tuesday issued new directives for the next three months, fearing a worse situation.
Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam said these directives were made keeping in mind that the country had reached the peak of the Covid-19 crisis during summer last year.