The country's health, education and economy face new crises as virus infection keeps spiking – prompting worries over the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.
Though there are initiatives to reopen school, the resumption now faces uncertainty. Worries also mount over the recovery of the virus-hit economy as hospitals struggle to tackle patient rush.
According to the health directorate, 2,809 people tested positive with the virus in 24 hours until Monday morning – the highest daily count in the last seven months. Death from the virus infection is also on the rise.
Many hospitals face a crisis in accommodating general patients as they have already run out of intensive care units (ICUs). Covid dedicated hospitals resume operations to tackle the rush of the virus patients.
Experts term the overall situation a new crisis, and emphasised maintaining virus safety measures properly instead of imposing a lockdown.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, consultant of the Covid-19 Pandemic Control at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told The Business Standard that the previous experience suggested lockdown did not yield much to curb the infection.
"Infection is spiralling as social, cultural and political events increase. We have to keep those open for life and livelihood, and have to maintain the virus safety measures at the same time."
Dr Mushtuq said people should be forced to wear face masks, and encouraged to get inoculated. Citing examples of the USA and Europe, he said vaccination would help reduce both infection and death.
Hospitals in a tight spot
The health directorate closed several Covid dedicated hospitals as virus cases plummeted in the last few months. The hospitals were preparing to treat regular patients after downsizing the Covid units. Now, they are struggling to cope with the growing number of virus patients as infection has been rising since early March.
According to the health directorate, there were only 52 ICUs vacant in 19 public and private Covid dedicated hospitals in Dhaka on Monday. Of those, only five ICUs were vacant in ten public hospitals.
Kurmitola General Hospital, Mugda Medical College and Hospital, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital and Government Employees Hospital had no ICU vacant.
Besides, Covid dedicated private hospital Ibn Sina and AMZ Hospital did not have any ICU left for the new patients.
In the meantime, there was a crisis of general beds in those hospitals.
Kurmitola General Hospital has 393 virus patients against its 275-bed capacity. At present, there are only 639 general beds vacant at government hospitals.
Professor Dr Ahmedul Kabir, principal at Mugda Medical College, told TBS that they were facing difficulties to tackle patient rush.
"While we were taking preparation to treat non-covid patients, then the virus cases spiralled suddenly. We will run out of capacity within the next two-three days if the flow continues," he said.
Professor Kabir said they were preparing more beds to cope with the patient rush.
Dr Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospitals and clinics) of the health directorate, told TBS that Dhaka Mohanagar General Hospital and Lalkuthi Hospital were being readied to admit Covid patients again.
"Besides, virus patients will be admitted to the 1050-bed Dhaka North City Corporation Market Hospital. Other hospitals have also been instructed to increase beds and ICUs for Covid patients," he added.
Dr Farid Hossain said awareness is crucial to curb the infection. If people do not follow the virus safety measures, the situation may go out of control.
Business recovery fears a bumpy ride ahead
The country's economy and businesses were recovering as the infection rate had been low in the last couple of months. Most of the sectors returned to their regular production level while exports also started to turn around.
Apart from the daily essentials and services, hotels, restaurants and tourism sectors also gained momentum. But, the resurgence in infection set off alarm bells among the business people.
M Rezaul Karim Sarker Robin, vice-president of the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association, said their business was the worst affected as they had to spend extra to maintain the virus safety measures.
"The pandemic has already jeopardised the fate of several lakhs of businessmen while the rise in infection is prompting fresh worries," he added.
He said restaurant business across the country has not returned to normal after the three-month virus-led closure. The businessmen are trying to ride out the losses. If the virus cases continue to spike, they will be in the soup again.
Md Siddiqur Rahman, vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the spike in infection makes our recovery a little more difficult. But we have to be watchful so that panic does not erupt.
He said the situation will have to be dealt with keeping the economic activities normal.
Bangladesh Monday recorded 30 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, which is the highest daily count since 29 December last year.
The latest day's death rate was 1.52%. So far, 8,720 people have died from Covid-19 in Bangladesh.
Meantime, the infection rate stood at 11.19%, while the total caseload reached 573,687.
School reopening in a quandary
Like the country's economy and health sector, the sudden rise in infection has made school reopening uncertain.
Despite the decision to reopen schools and colleges on 30 March, no one is sure yet whether the educational institutes will reopen.
Professor Dr Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS that they were very concerned over the recent resurgence in infection.
"So far we stick with the 30 March reopening plan. But, a meeting will be held soon on the current situation, where the next decision will be taken."