As Bangladesh experiences community transmission of the Indian variant of coronavirus, experts now fear this will cause infections to rise further.
They have urged the authorities to take appropriate measures, including imposing a lockdown in the border districts, to prevent the spread of the variant.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) detected the variant in 13 people on Friday. Seven of them had not travelled to India.
IEDCR Director Prof Tahmina Shirin told The Business Standard the seven are from Chapainawabganj.
She said controlling infections is more important now than addressing the variants of the virus.
"The more the rise in infections, the more detection there will be of strains and the higher will be community transmission. The biggest challenge now is to check infections by following hygiene guidelines."
The Indian variant was first detected in two people returning from India on 8 May. So far, 20 people have been infected with the variant in Bangladesh.
Dr Abu Jamil Faisal, a public health expert and member of the Public Health Advisory Committee of Covid-19, told The Business Standard the Indian variant's community transmission is a big concern as it also infects children.
He said mango-laden trucks now go to every corner of the country and the Indian variant may spread in other districts via truckers and their helpers.
"Health rules have to be followed strictly and testing should be increased in the border districts. Those testing positive should be quarantined immediately. Infections will increase rapidly if the chain of infections cannot be broken."
So far, 1,567people in Chapainawabganj have tested positive for Covid-19 and 32 of them have died, while 416 are undergoing treatment. The local administration imposed a lockdown till Monday to curb infections.
Chapainawabganj Civil Surgeon Dr Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury said the latest positivity rate is 34%, which was 62% previously.
But there is no reason to feel any sense of relief as the positivity rate has gone down, he said, adding nothing can be said about the situation before 14 days have gone by.
He said 42 samples had been sent to the IEDCR for genome sequencing and the results on Saturday morning had shown the Indian variant had been found in seven.
"These 42 people will now be subjected to contact tracing and we will test everyone who came in contact with them. Whether the lockdown will be lifted will depend on the infection situation. The nationwide positivity rate is now 8%. In Chapainawabganj, it is almost four times higher," he explained.
Though the positivity rate has decreased in Chapainawabganj, infections are increasing rapidly in Rajshahi. In the border district of Kushtia, the number of Covid-19 patients has been increasing since Eid, with the number doubling in the last one week.
Rajshahi Medical College Hospital Director Brigadier General Shamim Yazdani has recommended imposing a special lockdown in Rajshahi with immediate effect to curb the growing rate of infections.
He said hospitals had run out of space due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 patients.
"Most of the patients recovered after treatment as each of them was provided with a bed and high flow nasal cannula with central oxygen facilities so far. But infections in the district are rising and the hospital will not be able to provide the same facilities if more patients arrive," he added.
Apart from Rajshahi, patients from Chapainawabganj, Natore, Naogaon, Joypurhat, Pabna and Kushtia also come to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital for Covid-19 treatment. Hospital sources said some 191 people, including 94 from Chapainawabganj, were undergoing treatment in the coronavirus ward and the intensive care unit till Saturday.In the last five days, 39 people have died at the hospital due to Covid-19 or as a result of its symptoms.
Shamim said the Indian variant's community transmission had begun in Rajshahi, given the increasing number of patients in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj.
He further said, "Which areas have been affected by the variant and who are being mostly infected can be determined only after genome sequencing."