Though the Health Minister has said coronavirus is on its way out from Bangladesh whether there is a vaccine or not, noted health experts think it is unlikely to happen as it is a pandemic, not a seasonal virus.
They warned that there is no room for complacency over the slight fall in the number of new cases and deaths since the county may experience the second and deadlier wave of the virus in the coming winter due to lethargy and inaction, and also for lack of human intervention and necessary bulwarks.
The experts suggested the government to be active and intensify its diplomatic efforts to procure an effective corona vaccine alongside strengthening the preventive measures to get rid of the deadly virus.
At a programme on Saturday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the coronavirus is now set to leave from the country on its own whether the vaccine comes or not.
Stating that the rates of the virus infection and fatality have declined in the country, he said, "I think Covid-19 may not take many more days to leave Bangladesh, even though the vaccine arrival is delayed. I don't know whether we need a vaccine to eliminate it."
Contacted, noted medicine specialist and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician Dr ABM Abdullah said he does not think the health minister's comment on automatic corona exit has any scientific basis.
"I don't know in what context and how he said it. I'm also not sure whether he took any expert opinion. I guess he becomes confident about the elimination of the virus as people are now less concerned about it and moving everywhere without any fear," he observed.
Dr Abdullah said the minister also may indicate about attaining herd immunity, but it is not easy to gain it as a major portion of the population needs to be infected with the virus. "As our testing capacity is very poor, we don't have accurate data about how many people have actually exposed to the virus so far. I think it didn't reach such a level that we can think about herd immunity."
Dr Abdullah said he believes the country needs to become serious for getting an effective vaccine to get rid of the virus considering its population size and density instead of depending on herd-immunity option.
He also feared that the corona infections and deaths may increase in the days to come as a huge number of people left different corona hotspots ahead of Eid-ul-Azha and started returning to their workplaces. "We should carefully observe the situation and the infection trend. "Until we get an effective vaccine and within affordability, we must strictly follow the health safety rules and preventive measures."
Stating that corona infection is relatively lower in Bangladesh than many other countries, Dr Abdullah said there is no scope of complacency as no one can say when the virus will finally go away. "Like many other viruses, corona may last for a long time. It may turn acute in winter. "So, I think the vaccine is the only option to control a pandemic like that of corona."
Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said the minister has made a "misleading" remark which may encourage people to become more desperate to flout the social distancing and health safety rules.
"I personally don't believe the Covid-19 pandemic will go away without a vaccine. I don't find any logic and scientific basis behind such comment of the minister. We need to understand corona is a pandemic, not a seasonal virus," he observed.
The health expert said an epidemic like a waterborne disease Hepatitis E which usually spreads in a specific country or region needs much time to come under control. "But the corona is a strong pandemic which already spread to over 200 countries of all the continents of the world. How can we think of getting rid of it automatically?
Be-Nazir said Chania is the only country which seems cent percent successful in containing the virus. "There're around 150 countries that have 40 to 90 percent success in controlling the virus. But Bangladesh is among the countries that are unsuccessful in slowing down the infection."
He said the countries that got success in reducing the coronavirus they strictly followed preventive measures like social distancing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and effective lockdown. "We couldn't follow any of these rules properly. Now we need to rebound and strictly maintain these rules alongside making efforts to purchase a vaccine to eliminate corona. Or else, nothing can save us from a long transmission cycle in which we've already entered."
The former DGHS official also said the infection slowed slightly as the country is passing through the first wave of the virus, but it may witness the second and deadlier wave in the coming winter. "So, we should now work out plans so that we can tackle the virus effectively during the cold weather."
Prof Muzaherul Huq, a former adviser for WHO South-East Asia region, said Bangladesh is one of those countries where both the corona infection and fatality are still very high. "So, we shouldn't believe this virus will go away from our country without any vaccine and proper intervention. We need the right strategies and plans to control the transmission."
Keeping in mind the huge population and poor healthcare system, he said Bangladesh has two options -- one is vaccination and another is WHO's guidelines -- to eliminate the virus. "Ultimately vaccine is the only option to get rid of the deadly pandemic. We should do whatever necessary to get a vaccine as soon as possible."