The Bangladesh government had prepared early to contain the spread of coronavirus, which in turn helped to keep in check the number of Covid-19 patients in the country, said Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on Sunday .
He made the comment at an online press conference organised by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
Earlier at the event, IEDCR Director Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora said, "No new coronavirus patient has been identified across the country in the last 24 hours. Thus, no new patient has been detected for two days in a row.
"A total of 48 people have been found infected with coronavirus in Bangladesh, and five people have died because of the illness so far."
Meanwhile, the health minister said, "It is a matter of great joy that we did not find any new [coronavirus] patient on Sunday [Saturday], and no patient was identified today [Sunday] as well. It is a matter of happiness for the people in the country.
"We had a meeting with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday [Saturday], along with 10 other countries. The WHO has expressed its satisfaction and the prime minister expressed her satisfaction as well."
Giving more details, Zahid Maleque said, "We started preparing [for the coronavirus outbreak] from the first week of January. We made arrangements for screening and formed three committees. The committees were formed at the national, district and upazila levels. We had also made arrangements for quarantine."
Adding that the people are well, the health minister said, "Bangladesh is faring better than many other countries in the world. We are doing well because we took preparations a lot earlier. You know very well the present situation in Europe and America.
"We have increased the number of [coronavirus] test facilities very quickly. Initially, we performed tests from only one facility, but now the test is available at 11 facilities. I have directed officials concerned to build test facilities in every big hospital in the future.
"We had a test facility built in Cox's Bazar in five days, but patients are yet to visit it. Increasing the number of test facilities is not enough. People must go to these facilities to get tested."
'We want to stem the spread of infection'
Adding that many have questioned why the number of infected people is much lower in the country, the minister said, "Why is this question being raised? Will a large number of infections make us happy? Do we want a large number of people to die?
"We want to stem the spread of infection in the country and keep the people from dying from this illness. This is the most important matter for us."
He continued, "Many are saying if the health ministry had prepared better, the current situation could have been averted. However, is it our duty to stop foreigners from entering Bangladesh? Can we stop planes? The health ministry can only provide treatment.
"Many businessmen are holding the health ministry responsible for cancellation of their orders in Europe and America. How can we take responsibility for this issue?"
Commenting on the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), Zahid Maleque said, "Around three lakh PPE have been distributed to hospitals around the country so far and five lakh more will arrive within April.
"We are receiving around 20,000 to 30,000 units of PPE each day. There is no reason to be concerned over the matter."
The minister further said, "We are collecting PPE and formulating a policy on how to distribute them. Not every hospital has the same requirement. We are only providing PPE to public hospitals. I have also learned that doctors in private hospitals did not receive an adequate number of PPE.
"I want to say to the private hospital associations' members that please collect PPE for the doctors and nurses as soon as possible so that they can provide the right healthcare."
Discussing the availability of coronavirus testing kits and ventilators, Zahid Maleque said, "I heard a lot of discussion about kits. We currently have 45,000 testing kits and ordered another 85,000.
"Our public hospitals have 500 ventilators, but not all of them have been installed as yet. The private hospitals have 700 ventilators. A total of 350 ventilators are currently at the import stage, and it will take time for them to arrive.
Responding to a query, the minister said, "The holiday is ending. We will keep observing the situation, along with you , the people, and the prime minister too. We will also observe the situation in other countries.
"We will inform the prime minister about the overall situation and she will give the final decision after consideration."
Commenting about a health ministry official who became infected by the coronavirus, Zahid Maleque said, "The health ministry is a big ministry, and we have a lot of officials. Many people visit the ministry regularly. It is possible for someone to get infected there."
When asked whether he is in quarantine too, the health minister said, "I got tested for the coronavirus, and it came out negative. I would not say I am under quarantine. I am working in a similar manner like many others."