- 5 lakh people went abroad to celebrate Eid
- Around 2.5 lakh went to India where Covid infections are rising
- Many may return infected, and spread infection
- Experts advise quarantining people returning from abroad and monitoring their contacts
The Covid-19 infection rate may increase in the country after the return of several lakh people who went abroad to celebrate Eid, fear experts.
They said the Covid situation in Bangladesh is much better now, but the infection rate has started to increase again in several countries such as India, China, the USA, and South Africa. Consequently, infections in Bangladesh might increase in the coming days, transmitted by Bangladeshis returning home after celebrating Eid in those and other countries.
In order to keep Covid infection under control, experts have advised properly quarantining people returning from abroad and keeping information about their whereabouts for contact tracing.
The country's people have celebrated Eid in a festive mood after two years due to the improved pandemic situation. Millions of people went to their village homes to celebrate Eid.
According to the Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operators Association, about 5 lakh people went to different countries like India, Thailand, the USA, Nepal, and the Maldives, as tourists during the Eid vacation – some 50% of them to India alone.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, adviser at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), thinks there is a risk of another outbreak over the next three months.
"Due to increased movement within the country and travelling abroad for Eid, infections may increase at the end of this month or at the beginning of next month," he tells The Business Standard.
"A new sub-variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa. Moreover, infections are on the rise in the US and India as well. At present, the mandatory quarantining of people coming from abroad has been lifted in our country. The authorities have to ensure that people coming or returning from abroad fill in their health card properly and retain information on those who come in contact with them," he says.
In the last meeting of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (NTAC) on 24 April, experts expressed concern about the rising trend of Covid cases in Asian and European countries, warning that infections may rise in Bangladesh also if the public is callous and not vigilant.
The NTAC also suggested making Covid negative certificates mandatory for foreign nationals from countries where infections were high. It advised amping up the screening procedure at all ports of entry.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and a member of the committee, says, "Those who have gone abroad for Eid are not wearing masks. Most of them have gone to India where infections are on the rise at present. So, there is an increased risk of infections. Many might return infected, and they will spread the infection. The risk would be minimised if those returning could be quarantined.
"Infections in Dhaka will increase as most people who have gone abroad to celebrate Eid are from the capital. But, the risk can be tackled successfully if hygiene rules are maintained properly and carefully."
The Covid positivity rate in the country has been below 1% for the past 13 days and no death has been recorded in the last 15 days.
So far, 29,127 people have died and 19,52,747 have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in March 2020.
Professor Nazmul Islam, spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services, said, "Mandatory quarantine has been lifted as the positivity rate is below 1% now, but everyone should be careful. The pandemic situation in the country is satisfactory now, and to keep the situation under control, those who have gone abroad should be tested for any abnormal symptoms. Everyone should be careful to protect themselves and their family from not only Covid, but from any other disease as well, when they go abroad."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that recently cases rose 33% in Africa and 13% in the Americas. There was also a nearly 70% jump in deaths reported in India although that was attributed to delayed reporting rather than a recent surge of the disease, reports the Washington Post.
Last week, authorities in South Africa said they had noted an uptick in Covid cases attributable to the BA.4 mutant of Omicron, although they said it was too early to tell if that would result in a significant new wave of disease. Although the BA.4 version of Covid's Omicron variant appears more infectious than the primary Omicron variant, the WHO said there was no evidence yet that it was leading to substantially higher rates of hospitalisation or death.
Covid deaths three times more than official toll: WHO
The Covid pandemic has caused the deaths of nearly 15 million people around the world, almost three times what the official data shows, according to a new WHO report, the most comprehensive look yet at the true global toll of the pandemic.
The WHO believes many countries undercounted the numbers of people who died from Covid. The official count of deaths reported to WHO between January 2020 and December 2021, is slightly more than 5.4 million, the UN body said on Thursday, as reported by Reuters.
The WHO report said 4.7 million people died in India as a result of the pandemic, mainly during a huge surge in May and June 2021. The number is 10 times more than the official figures and almost a third of Covid deaths globally.
The Indian government has questioned the estimate, saying it has "concerns" about the methodology, but other studies have also come to similar conclusions about the scale of deaths in the country.