Ten more districts have been marked as red zones as Bangladesh on Wednesday recorded the highest daily positivity rate at 25.11% for Covid-19 infections since 7 August last year.
With 9,500 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, the day also saw Covid infections reach 56,755 in just 19 days of January – which is almost double the combined tally of the previous three months.
Experts fear daily Covid cases will exceed 40,000 in the next one to two weeks if infections continue rising at the current rate. The infection rate had been under control for more than three months.
"Infection is increasing, fuelled by Omicron. The number of patients is going up at the rate of one and a half times per day," Dr M Mushtuq Husain, adviser of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) told The Business Standard.
"If the pace of the Covid tests continues, it will not take long for 40,000 patients to be detected in a day. Every country is changing the graph of their Omicron-fuelled infections and the same will happen here, too," he added.
The Directorate General of Health Services also reported 12 more deaths in the last 24 hours till 8am Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Committee has advised Covid positive patients to stay in isolation for 10 days.
At a meeting on Tuesday, it also recommended those who come in contact with any Covid patient but do not have any symptoms to wear tight masks. They do not have to stay in quarantine.
On 28 July last year, the highest 16,230 patients were identified in the country during the second wave of the coronavirus fuelled by the Delta variant.
During the second wave, hospitals had to struggle to provide services to a mounting number of patients. There was an enormous crisis for intensive care units (ICUs) and hospitals stopped admitting patients due to extra pressure. There have also been cases of death owing to a lack of oxygen.
Although the number of patients has increased this time, hospitals have yet not faced pressures. Of the 13,466 general beds fixed by the government for Covid patients, 11,775 beds are empty. In addition, more than 1,000 ICU beds remain vacant.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain said the hospitalisation rate is low as the severity of Omicron is lesser than other variants but now it will take another three weeks – for those who are being infected now – to recover or become severe.
"In addition, 50% of the people in our country have not yet received two doses of vaccine. So there is a risk of increasing deaths after two weeks," he added.
To fight infections, Dr M Mushtuq advises wearing masks, testing and treating infected patients in isolation and reducing crowds.
In addition, to reduce deaths, the elderly need to be brought under vaccination without any delay, he added.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the number of coronavirus patients in the country has increased by 228% in the last week from 12-17 January compared to the previous week. During this time, the death toll from coronavirus has increased by 185%.
DGHS spokesperson Professor Nazmul Islam said in a Covid briefing on Wednesday Omicron variant has spread far and wide in the United Kingdom, the United States and India.
"Usually, a new variant replaces the old one but so far the Delta variant is spreading more in our country. Last year we experienced the impacts of the Delta variant. Omicron infection has also occurred in our country and patients are getting detected. So we have to be more cautious," he added.
After Dhaka and Rangamati, 10 more districts have been identified as high-risk areas for coronavirus infection within a week. Besides, 32 districts are on the medium-risk list and so far there are 20 risk-free districts.
The government started a special inoculation programme for transport workers by providing Covid vaccine to 200 workers at Mohakhali Bus Terminal in the capital on Wednesday. This programme will be taken all over the country soon.
Bangladesh logged 28,176 deaths and 16,42,294 cases since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.