Covid-19 has taken a very dangerous turn in Bangladesh over the past several days as the number of daily infections and deaths from the virus has suddenly taken a steep sweep upwards. The numbers are reaching new highs every day.
The current rising trend in daily infections and deaths is faster compared to even that recorded in June-July last year when the first wave of the pandemic reached its peak in the country.
The country is in its 56th week of the Covid-19 outbreak. In the first six days of this week (March 26-April 2), 32,788 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus – the highest number of cases reported in a week so far. During this time, the average daily fatality rate stood at 48.
An analysis of data provided by the health directorate shows that the country reported the previous highest number Covid-19 positive cases on a weekly count in the 18th week of infection (28 June to 4 July 2020). In that week, 25,701 new patients were detected, while the daily death rate was 43.
Experts say this time the infection situation is very grave. If strict steps are not taken to control the spread, infections and fatalities will rise further, they warn.
While experts are asking for immediate enforcement of restrictive measures to curb further spread of the virus, an apparent apathy towards following health guidelines by the citizens, and at times by some responsible authorities, have become worrisome.
Amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases, the Directorate General of Medical Education on Friday administered the MBBS admission test for the 2020-2021 academic year. Some 1,22,761 students took part in the entrance exam held at 55 centres across the country.
On the other hand, the haphazard manner in which some restrictions have been imposed recently has raised doubts about their effectiveness.
One such measure is restriction on travel. Buses were asked to keep half of their seats empty while offices and businesses remain open, causing immense suffering to commuters and chaos on the roads, exposing them to further danger.
Fresh surge in infections
After reaching their first peak, coronavirus infections started to slow down in September last year. In January-February this year, the number of infections dropped significantly.
As the infection rate fell below 3% in February, the government was planning to admit non-Covid patients in various Covid-dedicated hospitals.
But in the meantime, infections started to increase again from March. The number of daily cases crossed the 1000-mark again on 10 March and it has been on the rise since then. At present, the number of daily cases has exceeded 6,000.
Bangladesh reported record 6,830 new cases in the past 24 hours till Friday at 8am, with an alarming 23.28% single-day infection rate. The tally has reached 6,24,594 in the country.
The country also saw 50 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The death toll now stands at 9,155, with a 1.47% fatality rate.
Dr Asim Kumar Nath, director of Mugda Medical College Hospital, told The Business Standard, "We have been observing an increased pressure of patients since 10 March.
"Earlier, our hospital used to admit 60-70 patients a day. Now it has increased several times. None of our 329 ordinary beds and 29 ICU beds is vacant right now. I am getting a lot of requests for admitting patients every day. Now we need to increase hospital seats as well as control infection."
Hospitals running out of beds
In the meantime, most of the hospitals in the capital are facing ICU beds as well as general bed crisis. The demand from patients for a seat in the hospital is growing.
Professor ABM Abdullah, noted medicine specialist and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician, said, "The number of Covid patients is increasing every day. Due to increased infections, deaths are on the rise. The coronavirus cannot be tackled by increasing the number of hospital beds. We have to prevent the disease and make arrangements so that people do not get infected."
Infection type changed
The second wave in the country has also brought in some changes in the type of infection.
On the one hand, the number of patients is growing rapidly and on the other hand their condition is deteriorating rapidly after getting infected.
Another change caused by the second wave is that there is an onrush of many young patients who are now being admitted to ICUs.
Dr Muhammad Asaduzzaman, head of the Intensive Care Unit at Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital, told The Business Standard, "The alarming change brought in the new wave is that patient's condition now is getting worse within two to three days of testing positive, but earlier it would take 8-12 days."
Isolation of Covid hotspots recommended
Professor Md Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said the virus seems to be stronger and is more likely to infect faster and deteriorate the patient's condition faster.
"Infections are on the rise and now the hygiene rules alone cannot lower the infection curve. If the emphasis had been on hygiene more than a month and a half ago, the situation might not be as it is today. Now five cities – Dhaka, Chattogram, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Moulvibazar – have to be isolated from the other parts of the country with the enforcement of a 14-day curfew in these places."