The positivity rates still hover above 22%, daily deaths are more than 200, hospitals are overwhelmed with patients needing ICU care – all the signs indicate a deteriorating Covid-19 situation.
But Bangladesh lifted the virus curbs partially on 11 August, and on Thursday announced almost a full reopening on 19 August – which health experts believe could mislead the people about the brutal surge in infections and deaths.
In two weeks' time, the reopening could meet with deadly consequences, and the infection rates may cross 30% by the last week of August, they fear.
The Cabinet Division issued a circular on Thursday, saying all public transportations will resume at full capacity on 19 August. Besides, community centres, tourist spots, hotels and resorts will reopen at half capacity.
Bangladesh reported 215 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours until Thursday – the 19th day of 200-plus single day deaths as the death tally reached 23,613. The day also reported 10,126 new cases as the daily positivity rate was 22.46%.
"The positivity rate has been below 25% for the last three days, but it is unclear if the situation is stable yet," said Dr M Mushtuq Husain, adviser to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
He attributed the infection rate fall to the more than two-week lockdown, which he said may go up again riding on the reopening.
Dr Mushtuq recommended adapting local level measures to rein in infections so that a nationwide lockdown can be averted. He suggested isolating the cases, ensuring people wear face masks and ramping up the mass inoculation programme.
Dr Abu Jamil Faisal, a public health expert and a member of the Public Health Advisory Committee of Covid-19, said, "I am very concerned about the infection rate. Reopening at this stage will end up infecting all, while many critical cases eventually would die."
He said the positivity rate may cross 30%-mark by the last week of August.
According to the health directorate data, Covid dedicated hospitals in Dhaka are still struggling with the patient rush. Of the 17 dedicated hospitals in the capital, ten had no intensive care unit (ICU) bed vacant Thursday, while Kurmitola General Hospital had more patients admitted than the capacity.
"The hospitals are exhausted," Health Minister Zahid Maleque told a programme in Dhaka Thursday.
"We want the death rates to cool off. The government cannot do that alone, we need the cooperation of all. People should ensure their personal health safety," noted the minister.
At the programme, health directorate Director General Professor Dr ABM Khurshid Alam said, "It is not possible to expand hospital capacity overnight. We have already increased the number of hospital beds, but there is a limit to healthcare expansion."
Curbs to return if situation worsens: State minister
State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said virus curbs will be imposed again if Covid-19 situation worsens.
"We have relaxed the movement restrictions for the sake of life and livelihood," he told journalists in Dhaka Thursday.
"There is no alternative to lockdown to contain the runaway infections," said the state minister referring to Australia that deployed its army and slapped a curfew.
"The infection situation is not satisfactory; we are at risk. We need to raise social awareness so that people wear face masks," he added.