The main purpose of the lockdown is to prevent the disease from spreading from one place to another. Lockdown is not everything – it is only a part. It is a step to curb the transmission of the disease.
If there had been no lockdown in the country, the many patients found in Dhaka these days would have spread all over the country because hundreds of thousands of people go to all over the country from Dhaka every day. Also, many healthy people from outside Dhaka would carry the disease from here. Lockdown has prevented these cases.
But lockdown is not everything. It is a policing system. It is necessary to analyse who are the people with whom the patient has come into contact with. It is necessary to know the places where the patient has visited and by which transport. Lockdown is an administrative matter, but the rest is the task of the public health department.
Contact tracing is not done properly. We need a team for each of the 5,000-6,000 patients that we have. Each team needs 10 to 12 members. Teams of public health experts, medical officers, volunteers, police, and local elected representatives should be there.
Contact tracing, quarantine and laboratory tests must be facilitated along with lockdown. Forget about 6,000, if we could form 1,000 or 500 teams, it would be enough for the moment. There are several teams. But they are not teams of experts. It is hard for a medical officer who has no degree in public health.
As a result, many people are being infected with the disease from one patient. The number of patients is not increasing because we cannot trace all the patients. The number of patients is supposed to increase by a hundred to 200 to 400 to 800 every next day.
All the countries are experiencing this. But here, the number was stuck between 300 and 400 in the last few days.
The reason is we have missed many patients, in many cases we were late to trace patients. The samples are not being collected properly. The people who are collecting samples are not skilled.
On the one hand, we cannot trace patients and we cannot stop the spread of infection from those who are being identified. The curve that we are seeing is not the true picture. It is recorded data. There are patients outside this. The garment factories are open. Now the number of patients will increase.
Once, the position of Bangladesh was at 112 in the world. Now it is 47. Probably the position will come down to below 40 in the next few days. Because other countries are not having new infections. If we fail to take the right actions, the peak of our situation will come out.
Garment factories and restaurants are being opened without any discussion with the health department. The risk will increase in the coming days because of these uncoordinated decisions.
We have been emphasising proper tracing of the patients from the beginning. But the tracing of infected patients is not being done, many patients are hiding themselves in fear and others are being infected from them.
We are being trapped in a vicious cycle. We have to pay the price. Because of the way the number of patients is increasing, we do not have enough space in our hospitals to keep so many patients.
Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director, Communicable Disease Control, DGHS