Virologists and doctors have recommended that if a patient tests positive for novel coronavirus – Covid-19 – the patient should be placed in an international-standard isolation unit so that the infection can be tackled.
Isolation units at medical facilities must include features like a negative pressure room, a dedicated bathroom for each suspected patient and a separate ICU for the quarantine unit, they said.
In the meantime, Health Minister Zahid Maleque, on Tuesday, said isolation wards have been set up at every district hospital. He said that the government has formed three inter-ministerial committees to tackle the spread of the coronavirus infection.
The minister briefed the media about the precautionary measures undertaken by the government. However, health experts have criticised the initiatives and advocated for proper isolation facilities to be set up.
"Any flaw in preparations can turn the whole thing upside down," said Professor Md Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
"People from abroad could bring the virus into the country. Therefore, we need to be more cautious so that coronavirus-infected individuals – or those suspected of having it – can be detected and isolated promptly. There is no scope to compromise about it," Prof Nazrul added.
He also emphasized the necessity for proper detection of Covid-19.
The virus has spread to 76 countries, so far, with a concerning infection rate. There are fresh cases in neighbouring India – which rings alarm bells in Bangladesh.
"The outbreaks outside China began with one or two cases. The infection pattern soon intensified as the individuals infected clustered at churches or hospitals. Therefore, we should focus on proper isolation so that coronavirus does not take a deadly turn in Bangladesh," said Dr Jahidur Rahman, assistant professor at Virology Department of the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College & Hospital.
Three hospitals in the capital have readied isolation units. The Infectious Diseases Hospital at Mohakhali has opened a ten-bed unit on its first floor. Two rooms there have been separated into a male and female ward. However, the ten beds have just two bathrooms – posing a risk of infection for other patients isolated in the unit.
Experts say the isolation units are not up to the mark. They say a glass-partitioned unit will not deter infection of the airborne disease.
"To treat patients with the airborne infection, there should be a negative pressure room to allow air to flow into the isolation room, but not to escape from it," they commented.
Apart from this, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says that confirmed cases requiring admission should place the patients in an isolation room with a dedicated bathroom.
"Every isolation unit should have its own ICU unit as the coronavirus infected patients may require intensive care. The patients must not be shifted to the general ICU of the hospital," said Dr Jahidur.
Of the three hospitals in Dhaka, only the Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital has a dedicated ICU for its isolation unit.
Meanwhile, Professor Nazrul Islam said a specific location needs to be prepared to quarantine Bangladeshi returnees. The government used Dhaka airport-adjacent Hajj Camp to quarantine the Bangladeshi students who returned from China.
"However, the Hajj Camp might not be available while Covid-19's spread shows no sign of slowing down. It is high time we allocated a designated place," added Dr Nazrul.
Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora said they are prioritising early detection and the prompt isolation of the coronavirus-infected.
She said that the IEDCR has asked the private hospitals to set up separate isolation units too.
4.18 lakh people screened at ports, 100 suspected cases tested
"People at the ports are being screened – round-the-clock – upon their arrival and departure," said Health Minister Zahid Maleque. The minister said a total of 4.18 lakh people have been screened and 100 patients have been tested till date.
However, none were found to have Covid-19. Zahid Maleque also told the media that district level hospitals have also been asked to prepare two ICUs each.
Apart from district level isolation wards, the minister said that the government will use community clinics if the number of coronavirus patients surges.
If anyone returns from abroad, he or she will have to visit their respective upazila civil surgeon first and provide all required information. The foreign missions have been also instructed to closely monitor passengers from Italy, Iran and Korea. They must show medical certificates before entering Bangladesh, said the minister.
IEDCR asks for foreigners' info staying at Dhaka hotels
The IEDCR meanwhile has urged the hotel owners of Dhaka to provide information about their foreign guests.
"But the hotel owners must make sure that no tourist staying in the hotels are harassed for information," said IEDCR Director Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora.
While briefing the regular updates about the coronavirus situation on Tuesday, she requested the Bangladesh returnees and foreigners not to avail public transports.
"Use your own or rented vehicles. Always use a mask. Wash your hands with soap," said the IEDCR director.
Dr Flora said one more Bangladeshi among the five infected with coronavirus in Singapore has recovered and returned home.
So far, three Bangladeshis have been discharged from hospitals in Singapore, while another, who is cured but still in observation at the Intensive Care Unit, is awaiting the release.