Dr Jahidur Rahman
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidelines for Covid-19 affected countries to follow before they end their shutdowns.
The directives include extensive contact tracing for suspected novel coronavirus cases, increasing testing capacity, and ensuring the isolation and treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Easing or lifting the lockdown without implementing the WHO’s guidelines would be a suicidal decision. Since the Covid-19 outbreak started in Bangladesh, testing for the novel coronavirus has been neglected.
At the beginning, only one facility was used to perform Covid-19 tests. However, now, many labs across the country are carrying them out. However, we are not even performing one-tenth of the tests that are necessary.
It is not difficult to ramp up the number of tests. Several departments in our public universities have PCR lab setups, and trained personnel. If we can prepare public universities and private hospitals, it will be possible to carry out around 20,000 tests per day.
Aside from increasing the number of tests, maintaining quality control is essential. We must ensure contact tracing so that every suspected Covid-19 case can be tracked down. Contact tracing is the backbone of any viral epidemic control system.
The primary reason behind countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore successfully managing to curb the Covid-19 outbreak is aggressive testing and contact tracing.
Countries such as America, Britain, Spain, and Italy did not initially attach much importance to the matter. However, now they are emphasising the importance of contact tracing. Some countries are even using the support of their armed forces and mobile apps on the issue.
Companies such as Google and Apple are working together to develop apps with better cross-platform support. In Bangladesh, the infection is spreading because contact tracing is not being carried out properly.
If the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research is busy with other matters, it could employ the help of other organisations to perform contact tracing on their behalf.
Hundreds of epidemiologists graduate every year from the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s Public Health Department, National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine plus the Institute of Public Health.
They can carry out contact tracing in the country. With effort, it is possible to track down every suspected novel coronavirus case. More doctors, nurses and technologists must be trained to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Directors of all public hospitals can provide this training online.
There is confusion regarding what kind of hospital a Covid-19 patient needs. Dedicated hospitals and novel coronavirus isolation centres are different matters.
A dedicated hospital for Covid-19 patients must provide all necessary facilities at the medical college level. The number of such dedicated facilities must be increased.
The responsibilities of tackling a pandemic do not fall solely on the shoulders of any one department or ministry. We must tackle the crisis with a concerted effort.
Dr Jahidur Rahman, assistant professor, Department of Virology, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital