Five of the 34 Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar have suddenly seen an increase in Covid-19 infections, and lockdown has been imposed at some camps to prevent the spread of the virus.
The infection rate is increasing rapidly in border districts despite the quarantine of people returning to the country legally through borders. Experts fear that Indian variants could spread in the country at a large rate if illegal entry through different borders is not controlled.
Mohammad Shamsud Douza, additional commissioner of the government's Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission, told The Business Standard (TBS), "For two days in a row, 45 patients have been identified. To reduce the transmission of the virus, restrictions have been imposed on all types of movement, except for medical, food and other emergency needs."
So far, after testing 42,000 Rohingyas, 908 came out positive and 13 died. Last week, from 14 to 20 May, 165 Covid-19 patients were diagnosed with Covid-19 at the camps. On 19 and 20 May, 45 Rohingya patients were identified, which has raised concern.
Cox's Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Mahbubur Rahman told TBS, "The positivity rate at Rohingya camps is now around 15%, which was 1% -2% before. The positivity rate in the district is also over 10%, higher than the national positivity rate. We are trying our best to briddle the infection rate."
Bangladesh reported 38 more deaths from Covid-19 and 1,028 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total death count to 12,348 and case count to 7 87,726. The positivity rate was recorded at 8.41% after testing 12,230 samples.
Although the positivity rate in the country is 8%, that in the border district of Chapainawabganj is 50%. The number of Covid-19 patients from Chapainawabganj is increasing every day at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.
Dr Saiful Ferdous, deputy director of the Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, told TBS, "The number of Covid-19 patients in our hospital is increasing every day, and most of the patients are from Chapainawabganj. Out of 146 Covid-19 patients admitted on Saturday, 71 are from Chapainawabganj. Five of them are in the ICU."
"More people are coming from India illegally than legal routes through the Sona Masjid border, increasing the infection rate in Chapainawabganj. The situation will be dire if the Indian variant spreads in the country from the district," he added.
Chapainawabganj Civil Surgeon Dr Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury told TBS, "On Wednesday, samples of 42 Covid-19 patients, who returned to India from Chapainawabganj, were collected and sent to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR). Once we get the report, we can determine whether or not they are infected with the Indian variant."
"In the last four days, 49 people came to the country from India through the Sona Masjid border and one of them was Covid-19 positive. We are quarantining those who are coming to the country legally," he added.
In Jashore, 3,314 Bangladeshis returned from India from 26 April to 21 May morning. Among them, 17 Bangladeshis were infected after going to India, and 47 tested positive while in institutional quarantine. Indian variants were found in six of them.
Although the Bangladesh government closed the border with India for 14 days, starting from 26 April amid a virus surge, many Bangladeshis were allowed to enter the country, subject to having Covid-19 negative certificates. They were put in mandatory quarantine.
A young man who returned from India died on Thursday night while undergoing treatment at Covid-19 Isolation Hospital in Chuadanga.
Nazrul Islam Sarkar, deputy commissioner of Chuadanga, told TBS that 415 people had crossed the Chuadanga border till Friday. Seven of them are Covid-19 positive. Their samples have been sent to the IEDCR.
Bangladesh urgently seeks 16 lakh AstraZeneca doses from the UK
Bangladesh has urged the United Kingdom to provide Covid-19 vaccine doses to meet its emergency needs as the immunisation programme is disrupted.
"I am not asking for too much. I am only asking for 16 lakh AstraZeneca doses that they have. They should immediately send those to Bangladesh so that people can have their second dose," Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said in an interview with ITV News yesterday .
Dr Momen said that the UK government should be sincerer. "They should help their Commonwealth member states."
He said that Bangladesh is a good friend of the UK and so many Bangladeshis contribute to the UK economy. "… so the UK should come forward."
Speaking to ITV News, Momen described the vaccine situation in Bangladesh as a "crisis" and said, "We are desperate."
As the vaccine did not arrive from the Serum Institute of India as per the agreement, more than 14 lakh people are in uncertainty in getting the second dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Momen said in an interview with CNN that they have written a letter to US Secretary of State Blinken, asking for vaccines, and they have agreed to give some doses to Bangladesh.
"But the problem is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a long time to approve the export of AstraZeneca vaccine. However, since the World Health Organisation has already approved the vaccine, even if the FDA does not approve it, Bangladesh is ready to take it immediately, if the US agrees to send it," Momen said in a live interview.
The government is also trying to get vaccines from China and Russia. Meanwhile, China has gifted five lakh doses to Bangladesh. China has announced to gift another six lakh doses.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee, told TBS, "The increase in infection at Rohingya camps and border districts is worrying. Border surveillance needs to be enhanced further. Those who are returning to the country, legally and illegally, will have to be quarantined. The government is now trying to buy vaccines from various sources but it needs to be done faster."