With a rapid increase in Covid-19 infection throughout March, a fresh uncertainty has arisen over the issue of reopening of educational institutions.
According to the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS), 36% of the total confirmed Covid-19 cases of the last three months were recorded in the last three weeks.
The past 24 hours until 8am saw a steep rise in the daily infection rate in the country at 10.29%.
Professor Dr Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard, "We too are very concerned about the current infection situation. But so far, the decision to open school on the 30th remains unchanged. But, a meeting will be held soon on the current situation, where the next decision will be taken."
Meanwhile, the health secretary said the government was not yet thinking of fresh lockdowns.
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general (planning and development) of DGHS, yesterday said administering the second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will begin on 8 April.
Schools and colleges across the country are set to reopen on 30 March after staying closed for more than a year since 17 March last year.
According to the World Health Organisation, if Covid-19 infection rate stays below 5% for three consecutive weeks in a country, the pandemic is downgraded to the status of an endemic, which is the recommended situation for opening schools and colleges.
Covid-19 infection rate had started to come down below 5% in Bangladesh since 19 January. On 27 February, after the infection rate stayed below that point for six weeks, Education Minister Dipu Moni announced that schools and colleges will reopen on 30 March.
But since 9 March, the infection rate has begun to go up again and is currently staying above 10%.
No decision on lockdown yet
Asked whether the country will go into lockdown again, considering the increase in Covid-19 cases, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan yesterday said, "No such decision is being considered yet.
"The nation is now celebrating the golden jubilee of independence. Bangalis all across the world are celebrating. We might decide to impose a lockdown if we have to . But so far, we have not received any decision from the highest level."
Regarding when the next consignment of vaccines will arrive from the Serum Institute of India, Mannan said, "The prime minister of India will visit Bangladesh on 26 March. We hope to receive the next shipment from Serum during or after his visit. However, the shipment for March may arrive in the first week of April.
Second dose vaccination starts from 8 April
Professor Meerjady announced on Sunday that the second doses of the vaccine will be given from 8 April.
So far, 48,40,969 people have taken the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country, since vaccination began on 8 February. Among them, 80,222 people were vaccinated on Sunday.
She said, "Everyone will get an SMS to their mobile number given on the vaccine card. There is nothing to be worried about. The vaccination programme is being expanded, ensuring doses for everyone who received the first dose."
Since 22 December, 68,695 people across the country were infected and 1,378 died from the novel coronavirus. Among them, 24,662 people or 36% were infected in this month alone. Also, 282 people died during the same time.
The DGHS recorded 2,172 active Covid-19 cases in the country during the period. The number of novel coronavirus cases now stands at 570,878.
Besides, 22 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours. The death rate stands at 1.52%. The country's death toll from the virus now stands at 8,690, reads the press release.
Among the latest day's victims, 19 were men and three were women. 17 of them hailed from Dhaka, two each from Chattogram and Rajshahi, and one from Barishal division.
In total, 21,108 samples were tested in 219 labs across the country in the past 24 hours.
Also, 1,687 patients were declared free of Covid-19 during the same period, raising the total number of recoveries to 522,405 with a 91.51% recovery rate.
Ignoring health rules to blame
According to experts, not maintaining health rules, attending social and political events are to blame for the recent increase in infection.
Speaking at a programme at Central Medical Stores Depot on Sunday, Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general (planning and development) of DGHS said, "Nowadays, the use of masks and the arrangement of social events are returning to normal. We think infection is increasing because of this."
Flora said currently, the whole world is experiencing a rise in Covid-19 infection, not just Bangladesh alone. There is no alternative but to follow the hygiene rules.
"Whether vaccinated or not, we have to prevent and control Covid-19 [infection] by wearing masks properly, maintaining social distance and practising hand washing," she added.