With the mad home rush ahead of Eid and sluggish virus safety measures at reopened markets and shopping malls, the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh may worsen after Eid-ul-Fitr as the country will run out its vaccine stock in the next seven days, warn public health experts.
They urged the government to ramp up the treatment facilities and oxygen supply immediately as Bangladesh has already detected the more virulent and deadly Indian variants.
After apparently ending the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in April, the country still does not have central oxygen lines at one-third of its hospitals while many district level hospitals do not have intensive care units (ICUs).
The health directorate said it has been continuously building up virus treatment facilities, but the situation would slip out the hands if patient rush to hospital increases. On Monday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque also termed the mad rush to ancestral villages suicidal.
There is no alternative to Covid-19 preventive measures, he reiterated.
Dr Iqbal Arslan, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 said the Eid rush has paved the way for an infection spike after the festival. In the next two to three weeks, we may face the consequences.
The failure to curb the infection would put pressure on the health system, Dr Iqbal Arslan told The Business Standard.
He said hospitals that do not yet have a central oxygen line need to have those installed immediately. "We need to act fast to avert the India-like situation," he added.
According to health ministry sources, the country currently needs 70-80 tonnes of medical oxygen a day. During the peak of the second wave of the pandemic, the maximum per day oxygen demand rose to 210 tonnes.
Currently, Bangladesh can produce 220 to 230 tonnes of the gas every day. The government currently has about 900 tonnes of oxygen in stock for emergencies.
According to the health directorate, there are 12,059 general beds, 1,069 ICU beds, 23,227 oxygen cylinders, 1,605 high-flow nasal cannulas and 1,440 oxygen concentrators for Covid-19 patients across the country.
The health directorate has already administered 94 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine out of the stock of 1.02 crore doses.
So far, around 58.19 lakh people have taken the first shot of the vaccine while 33.13 lakh citizens have received the second dose. More than 91.33 lakh people have been inoculated including the first and the second dose.
The second dose for 15 lakh people faces uncertainty as the health directorate now has only 7 lakh vaccine shots.
Prof Sharfuddin Ahmed, Vice-Chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told TBS that there was a risk of infection hike after the Eid owing to the spread of the Indian variants.
"We need to increase the oxygen supply and the number of ICU beds. If necessary, field hospitals will have to be built with the help of the army," he commented.
Prof Sharfuddin thinks it is still possible to prevent the infection. He suggested people with Covid-19 symptoms to get tested and maintain a 14-0day isolation.
"There is no shortage of test kits. But people are not coming to get tested now," he said.
Contacted, health directorate Director General Prof ABM Khurshid Alam also commented that the infection may spike after the Eid.
"We have readied more than 12,000 beds where oxygen support can be provided if required. But there is a limitation of preparation. It will be difficult for us to cope if the infection increases a lot after Eid," he noted.
Prof Khurshid Alam agreed that there was a vaccine crisis.
"Hopefully the Chinese vaccine will arrive in Dhaka soon. The country is also preparing to produce Chinese and Russian vaccines locally," he told TBS.
The health directorate director general also said they have been contacting the western countries for vaccine imports.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque Monday said the way people are flocking at the ferry ghats showing a complete disregard to virus safety is quite similar to committing suicide.
While addressing a virtual meeting with divisional officials of the ministry, he said thousands of people are losing lives in neighbouring India everyday while the Indian variant is also intensifying the pandemic crisis in Nepal.
He requested people to take a lesson from the virus embattled neighbours.
Bangladesh loses 38 more lives to coronavirus
Bangladesh reported 38 more deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours until Monday morning, taking the total death count to 11,972.
During the 24 hours, the fatality rate was 1.54%, according to the health directorate.
Meanwhile, 1,514 more people were tested positive with Covid-19, which raised the total caseload to 775,027.
In the preceding 24 hours, the positivity rate was recorded at 8.99% after testing 16,848 samples in 454 labs across the country.