April is now the deadliest month of the novel coronavirus pandemic for Bangladesh.
The country has recorded 2,347 Covid-19 deaths with a daily average of 81 so far this month, topping last July's 1,264 fatalities with a daily average of 41, according to the data provided by the health directorate.
During the previous peak of infections in July last year, the highest single-day deaths were 55. But this month, the highest number of deaths in a single day was 112 and there were over 100 daily fatalities in 5 days.
The surge in the number of deaths in April this year is a result of an increase in infections in the month.
Experts were asking for stricter restrictions to curb spread of the virus. The government also imposed a "strict lockdown" across the country from 14 April. But, during the strict lockdown, everything but public transports went on as before.
Crowds of people have kept getting bigger day by day in shopping malls, roads and alleys. If things continue like this, the risk of infection and death will increase again, experts apprehend.
According to doctors, critical patients die two weeks after being infected with the coronavirus. In six days between the 4th and the 12th of this month, the number of daily new infections was over 7,000.
Therefore, experts said the death toll is likely to rise further next week. Infections need to be reduced to reduce deaths, they added.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard, "The lockdown will not yield any benefit if crowds in markets and on streets are not lessened and the health guidelines are not followed."
Professor Muzaherul Haque said lockdown is a scientific method to prevent coronavirus infections.
"It means everything except hospitals, drug stores, and ambulances will be closed. And, small vegetable or fish shops will be allowed to remain open for an hour or two.
"But that is not happening in our country. The restrictions have been imposed keeping everything open. Neither the government nor the people will benefit," he noted.
During visits to Bashundhara Shopping Mall, New Market, Chandni Chowk, Gauchia, Noor Mansion, Chandrima Super Markets in the capital, TBS found that the number of shoppers is increasing day by day ahead of the Eid.
Buyers and sellers were found little aware about maintaining hygiene rules and physical distancing. Many of them did not even wear facemasks.
Nizam Uddin, president of the Chadanichak Shop Owners' Association, told TBS that every day they have been requesting shop owners and salespersons to wear facemasks and follow health guidelines properly. "We're also requesting buyers to wear masks."
In addition, crowds of people and traffic congestion have kept increasing on roads in the capital.
Long tailbacks were seen at Panthapath signal in the capital on Thursday. There were traffic jams in many places of the capital including Kawran Bazar, Science Lab, Nilkhet, and Shahbagh intersections.
Since the reopening of shopping malls and shops, police personnel have not been found that much serious about checking movement passes of people either. Almost all check posts set up by the law enforcers have been removed by now.
Assked, Morshedul Islam, Ramna zone traffic sergeant, told TBS, "we are finding it very hard to check movement pass as there are too many people on the streets. Whenever we start to check movement passes at any point, heavy traffic jams are created there."
Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has suggested stricter enforcement of the ongoing lockdown rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus across the country.
The committee has also expressed satisfaction over the government's decision to extend the lockdown till 5 May at a meeting on Wednesday.
The meeting chaired by the committee president Prof Mohammad Sahidullah suggested continuing to motivate the people to abide by the hygiene rules.
The committee also advised on the "exit plan" after the lockdown. The government has also been requested to implement it on an urgent basis.
Prof Shahidullah told TBS, "We have always said no one should be allowed to step out of home unless there is an emergency. But that did not happen. We would get the maximum result, if the lockdown was implemented properly. Then our infection situation would improve by June. If the movement of people increases during the Eid holidays, infections may surge again."
He further added that owners of the readymade garment industries follow the health rules better than in other sectors.
"They have taught their staffers about the hygiene rules. Their infection rate is low. We repeatedly urged shop owners associations to make sure that every store maintains hygiene rules, like the RMG sector, after their reopening. We also requested them not to sell products to customers who will come to their shops without wearing a mask. But they are not following our instructions."
Advisory body calls for strict border surveillance
The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 warned the government about a probable oxygen crisis in the country as 88 more deaths were reported from Covid-19 and 2,341 new cases in the last 24 hours ending at 8 am Thursday.
It suggested that surveillance at borders should be strengthened to check the entry of people.
According to data released by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the total death count now stands at 11,393 in the country with a fatality rate of 1.51%.
The latest day's infection rate was 9.39%, which is the lowest since 20 March.
The new Covid-19 cases pushed the country's total caseload to 7,56,955.
In the meantime, 24,928 samples were tested in 358 labs across the country.
On Wednesday, The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 recommended that the government takes measures to prevent a probable oxygen crisis in the country.
At a meeting on the day, the committee emphasised increasing ICU and central oxygen supply initiatives in district hospitals, along with those in the capital.
Members of the committee congratulated the government for launching Mohakhali DNCC Hospital with 1200 beds. They recommended a maternity corner to be arranged in the hospital.
President of the committee Prof Mohammad Sahidullah chaired the meeting, where members showed concerns about the rate of infection and death in India.
They said a 'double variant' of the coronavirus has been identified in the neighbouring country.
All passengers coming from India must ensure 14 days in the institutional quarantine. Surveillance should be strengthened to control the entry of people through the border, the committee said.
They requested the government not to show any leniency in this regard.
Also, the committee suggested taking immediate steps to re-determine the cost of the coronavirus test in consultation with all concerned to increase the number of tests at the private level. Their recommendation follows a drop in the cost of kits required for the tests.