Public health experts fear that Bangladesh is tethering on the edge of Stage 4 of the coronavirus pandemic when thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths are reported everyday. That’s because despite a good start, the country has not been able to enforce a total lockdown and social distancing norms.
This report in Dhaka Tribune says that the country saw a “whopping 600% rise” in the number of fresh Covid-19 positive patients between 1 April and 9 April. The first Covid-19 positive case was detected in the country on 8 March.
Since then and until April 1, Bangladesh reported just six corona casualties and 54 Covid-19 positive patients. But on 9 April (Thursday) the country’s count climbed to 21 fatalities and 330 positive cases.
The situation had started worsening further from 4 April, the day the country confirmed two Covid-19 casualties and nine new infected patients. In a span of six days since April 4, 15 more casualties were reported. Thursday (9 April) recorded a new high of 112 people fresh positive cases.
Director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR) – the country’s apex medical testing and research centre – Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora said on Thursday that if a complete lockdown is not enforced, the situation would spiral out of control and Bangladesh would enter Stage 4 of the pandemic.
“We are at Stage 3 of the pandemic right now. But if social distancing norms are not followed very strictly and a total lockdown is not enforced, we will enter Stage 4,” she warned.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), Stage 3 is when the source of infection is not known in a majority of the cases and new positive cases can no longer be traced to previously diagnosed cases. Stage 4 is when the spread of the virus gets uncontrollable and major clusters of infection are reported all over the country.
“We are heading towards Stage 4,” warned eminent virologist Jahidur Rahman, who teaches at the country’s premier Shahid Suhrawardy Medical College.
The country’s capital – Dhaka – has seen a surge in fresh infections. Experts say that’s because most people continue to flout social distancing norms and crowd the markets and public areas of the city.
Former regional director (South-East Asia) of WHO, Professor Mozaherul Haque, told The Daily Star (Bangladesh’s largest-circulated English daily) that the fresh cases detected recently are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“Testing is sparse and there are a huge number of coronavirus-infected people who have not been tested. They are spreading the virus. Testing needs to be ramped up and a strict lockdown should be enforced immediately, or the situation will go out of control,” said Haque.
He predicted that if a total lockdown of Dhaka and its neighboring areas that have seen a spurt in cases is not enforced immediately, the capital city will be plagued by five lakh coronavirus-infected people within a month.
Though Dhaka and large parts of the country have been brought under a lockdown, lax enforcement of restrictions have seen huge crowds on the roads and at marketplaces, thus defeating the purpose of the lockdown.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.
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