Experts have urged the government to immediately lock down Rajshahi to stem the rapid increase in Covid-19 infections in the northern district.
After Chapainawabganj, coronavirus infection and death are increasing at an alarming rate in Rajshahi – a result of people travelling there from Chapainawabganj, community transmission of the Indian variant, and reluctance to maintain the health safety rules at the city's mango markets and by its residents in general.
Observing that preparations are also not enough to deal with a Covid surge in Rajshahi, experts said the situation will be dire if a strict lockdown is not imposed immediately in the border districts including Rajshahi.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has also recommended imposing lockdown in seven more districts – Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon, Satkhira, Khulna, Kushtia and Jashore – due to the increase in coronavirus infection.
In the past 24 hours till 8am on Sunday the coronavirus positive rate in Rajshahi was 37%; it was 22% on Saturday.
During the period, 12 people died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital of Covid-19 or with Covid-like symptoms – so far the highest deaths in a single day in the district.
Rajshahi Medical College Hospital is the only hospital for Covid patients in the district with 217 general beds and 15 ICU beds. On Sunday, there were 204 patients in the general bed and 15 in the ICU.
Upazila hospitals have 100 beds for Covid patients but no central oxygen line and ICU. So, the ICU patients from those hospitals also go to RMCH.
RMCH Director Brigadier General Dr Shamim Yazdani told The Business Standard, "The way the number of patients is jumping every day, in a day or two, it will surely cross the number of beds. There are currently 26 patients waiting for a bed in the ICU.
"There is a plan to add two more ICU beds. But, considering the alarming rate the number of patients is increasing, even if the number of ICU beds is increased to 50, it will be difficult to deal with the patient situation."
Dr Shamim said despite the increase in infections, Rajshahi is being given less importance as it is a border district. Now it is necessary to impose a strict lockdown on Rajshahi.
"Otherwise, it will be difficult for us to deal with the situation. We have to treat non-Covid patients too. The pressure on our doctors has increased immensely," he added.
Only a week ago, more than 50% of the patients admitted to RMCH were from Chapainawabganj. Now the number of Rajshahi patients is also increasing rapidly, the doctor said.
According to RMCH sources, of the 204 Covid patients admitted to the hospital on Sunday, 93 were from Chapainawabganj and 84 from Rajshahi.
Dr Khizir Hossain, junior consultant and general secretary of the Bangladesh Society of Anesthesiologist, Critical Care and Pain Physician of Rajshahi unit, told TBS, "There is a big mango market in Baneshwar just outside the city. Hundreds of people throng the market without following the health safety rules. The number of patients can also increase due to the community transmission of the Indian Covid variant.
Meanwhile, despite increased patients, only 200 samples are tested daily in Rajshahi. No one is tested without symptoms. As a result, asymptomatic patients are silently contributing to the increase in the infection rate.
In the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, the highest number of Covid patients was 98 in Rajshahi while in the second wave, the number was 136.
Dr Shamim Yazdani said only a couple of patients had died of Covid in the past weeks, so people were less afraid of Covid-19. But even though 50 people have died in the past five days, people are still reluctant to follow the hygiene rules.
Rajshahi Civil Surgeon Dr Quiume Talukder told TBS, "Tests at the upazila level will be further increased. If patients from other districts did not have to come to Rajshahi, the pressure on Rajshahi Medical would be less. People in the administration are working to enforce hygiene rules to control the infection but people are not listening."
DGHS also recommends lockdown
Meanwhile, like the doctors of Rajshahi, the Epidemiology and Public Health Committee of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has also recommended for imposing lockdown in seven more districts due to the increase in coronavirus infection.
The districts are Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon, Satkhira, Khulna, Kushtia and Jashore.
"The recommendation was placed in a meeting on Saturday evening," Dr Abu Jamil Faisal, a member of the committee, confirmed the information to The Business Standard.
Abu Jamil Faisal said, "We have made this recommendation to the Cabinet Division through the Ministry of Health."
However, no new district lockdown has been decided yet, said Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, Director General of the DGHS.
State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain told reporters on Sunday, "We have kept a close watch on the border districts. If we have to impose restrictions there, we will act accordingly. We are observing the situation closely. For now, nothing can be said clearly. We will make a decision as per the demand of the situation."
Covid positivity rate crosses 10% again
Bangladesh on Sunday saw a slight surge in daily Covid-19 cases as the positivity rate crossed 10% again.
With a positivity rate of 10.11%, Bangladesh recorded 1,444 new infections in the last 24 hours, taking the total caseload to 7,98,830.
Meanwhile, 34 more people lost their lives to the viral disease which took the death toll to 12,583.