Citizens' stubbornness, irresponsible movement, plus disregard for health and hygiene rules – alongside the unplanned and limited Covid-19 shutdown – have caused a sharp rise in novel coronavirus infections and fatalities in Bangladesh, experts have said.
They said this attitude of the citizens is driving the country toward achieving grim milestones in the spread of the virus. The country is consistently witnessing upward trends of infection.
According to experts, the government should cautiously take initiatives to curb the spread of the virus. They said a large portion of the society is obeying social distancing by staying home, but a segment of people are moving around disregarding health guidelines. Markets are open and people are going around as if there was no threat to health.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) thinks people are risking their lives because they are not following the guidelines. Its acting director general Professor Dr Nasima Sultana said, "People are risking their lives by being careless and showing a lack of awareness as they are not following the health guidelines."
The country confirmed its highest single-day Covid-19 death toll with 19 fatalities and 1,162 new cases – after testing 7,900 samples in the last 24 hours between Tuesday 8am and Wednesday 8am. With this, the death toll rose to 269 and the number of total infections stood at 17,822.
Dr Nasima disclosed the numbers at a virtual briefing at the DGHS on Wednesday.
"Some 7,862 samples were collected in the last 24 hours and 7,900 samples were tested in 41 labs across the country," she said.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard that almost 85 percent of the patients are in Dhaka.
"As we failed to manage the shutdown in Dhaka perfectly, infections have increased here. There is no significant expansion of infections outside Dhaka," he added.
"So, the government should be particularly cautious about the epicentres, including the capital and adjacent areas – such as Narayanganj, Gazipur and Savar. Otherwise, we will fail to control the infection rate – which may drive the nation towards a disastrous situation," he said.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Southeast Asia region, told The Business Standard the curve is going upwards though testing continues on a limited scale.
He said, "The WHO instructed countries not to minimise or withdraw the shutdown until virus transmission is controlled. However, we permitted garment factories and markets to open in the name of economy. It will leave us in a seriously risky situation.''
He suggested different strategies for different areas. "The country should be divided into green, yellow and red zones. If an area has 10 or fewer cases, it will be classified as a green zone and the area will not need to be locked down. Only the residences of the infected people will be locked down and economic activities may continue there.
"If there are around 100 infections in any upazila, the area will be classified as a yellow zone and a complete lockdown will not be necessary. Economic activities will be able to continue," said Muzaherul.
"The red zones will have to be on complete lockdown and economic activities there will have to cease," he further added.
Professor Nasima told the briefing three more PCR labs had been added to the existing labs which took the number to 41.
Praava Health and Ibn Sina Medical College Hospital in Dhaka, and Sheikh Hasina Medical College in Jamalpur are three new testing facilities which are functioning now, she said.
She said, "Of the 19 dead patients, 12 were males and seven females. Thirteen of them died in different hospitals in Dhaka city, three in Chattogram, and one, each, in Narayanganj, Khulna and Narail."
"Ten of the deceased were aged above 60, seven were between 51 and 60, and one was under ten," added Nasima.
She said some 214 patients had recovered during the 24-hour period, increasing the number of recovered cases to 3,361.
"The authorities placed 150 suspected patients in isolation, bringing the total number to 3,435 after 1,332 left. There are 329 intensive care unit facilities and 102 dialysis beds available for the treatment of novel coronavirus-infected patients in the country," she added.
Dr Nasima stressed the need for a focus on the mental health of the frontline fighters and empathy for novel coronavirus patients in the country.
"It can happen to anyone. Try to be empathetic to those who have the disease and have lost their family members to it," she said.
929 die with novel coronavirus symptoms since March 8
Meanwhile, as many as 929 people have died with symptoms similar to those of novel coronavirus since March 8.
Dhaka University's Centre for Genocide Studies revealed the information on Wednesday.
Additionally, 63 violent incidents related to Covid-19 also took place across the country in March and April, leaving eight dead and 254 injured.
Among the 929 people who died with Covid-like symptoms: 210 were in Dhaka division, 167 in Chattogram, 110 in Khulna, 87 in Rajshahi, 84 in Barishal, 66 in Sylhet, and 65 in Rangpur.
The director of the Centre for Genocide Studies, Professor Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, told The Business Standard that they collected the information from 16 newspapers.
He also suggested not closing all government organisations because of the novel coronavirus.
"The pandemic is not out of control. We can prevent it if we wash our hands regularly, wear masks and maintain social distancing. We have to do it until the pandemic ends," he said.
Former Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Professor Nazrul Islam said that many people who died from Covid-19-like symptoms were infected with the virus. However, the government, unfortunately, has no data on the deaths. The Centre for Genocide Studies can help the government with this.
"Some of the people dying with negative novel coronavirus test results were diagnosed positive after their death. That is why questions have been raised about the standard of the test," he added.
Meanwhile, 56 protests from various activists, ranging from garments to transportation workers, were held across the country between April 26 and May 9.
The protests were mostly held to demand food assistance and relief. Apparel workers blocked roads for unpaid wages. Some protests challenged the irregularities in relief distribution.
The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives has suspended 49 local public representatives – 18 UP chairmen, 29 UP members, one district council member, and one municipal councillor – till May 5, because of irregularities in the distribution of relief among the poor amidst the pandemic.
As many as 84 individuals have been arrested for spreading rumours and disinformation in social media, mostly between March 15 to 28.
Five more individuals, including a writer and a cartoonist, were arrested under the Digital Security Act over accusations they spread Covid-19-related rumours on social media platforms from May 3rd to May 9th – after a week of no rumour-related arrests, the centre said.