The uptick in Covid-19 cases comes after health authorities recently arranged to test samples of suspected patients around the country
Another Covid-19 patient has died while a total of 18 people have tested positive in Bangladesh in the last 24 hours, the highest in a day so far, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 88 across the country.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque made the announcement while addressing an online press briefing from Dhaka on Sunday.
The newly confirmed cases were among 367 samples tested in the day.
Previously, the highest number of confirmed cases in a day was nine from 553 samples on Saturday.
Among 18 newly confirmed patients, 15 are male, the health minister said in the briefing.
With the latest death confirmed Sunday, the country’s death toll also climbed to nine.
In the same briefing, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora said the deceased, a 55-year-old man, was from Narayanganj. He is the first person below the age of 70 to die from the infection in Bangladesh.
Three more individuals have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people who have recovered to 33, she added.
Dr Meerjady said: "Among the 18 new positive cases, 13 were identified in the IEDCR laboratory and five were identified from testing at different hospitals.”
Community transmission in five clusters
The IEDCR director said patients are being found in clusters, which suggests there is some community transmission in certain areas.
"We have found patients in clusters at different places, which means there is some community transmission in particular areas," she said.
"Nine patients were identified from the Bashabu area of Dhaka, six from Tolarbag in Mirpur and five from other areas of Mirpur. Thus the number of identified patients is 11 in the greater Mirpur area of Dhaka, and 11 more were identified from Narayanganj."
At the same briefing, Directorate of Health Services (DGHS) Director General Abul Kalam Azad said: "Patients have been identified in five clusters in the country, so far. Among them, Bashabu and Tolarbag are in Dhaka, while the other three are in Madaripur, Narayanganj and Gaibandha.
"We have strengthened our monitoring of these areas," he added.
Among 18 newly identified patients, 12 are from Dhaka, one is from Madaripur and the rest are from Narayanganj.
1,000-1,500 tests per day in the offing
Zahid Maleque said: "We are testing at 14-15 different places. We will increase the number of tests to 1000-1500 per day in future.
“The US and some countries in Europe have made some headway in treatment of covid-19. They are using hexaclorophen. The DGHS has taken some preparations accordingly," the health minister added.
He also urged doctors and nurses to provide health services to the people, as to not do so would be an injustice.
Meanwhile, Dr Flora also said 14 identified patients were receiving treatment at their homes.
She added that the patients were being treated as per World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
‘Reopening of factories not under my ministry’
Recently, large numbers of garment workers flocked back to Dhaka due to an announcement that factories would reopen on April 5. The return of the workers sparked widespread criticism as it was a breach of the lockdown to prevent Covid-19.
The lockdown was originally supposed to end on April 4, but has since been extended till April 14.
When asked about the matter, Health Minister Zahid Maleque, also head of the national committee to tackle Covid-19, said: “The opening and closing of factories is an issue of the Ministry of Industries and Ministry of Commerce. This decision is not under my ministry."
In response to a question on what the duties of the national committee to prevent Covid-19 were, the minister said: “What you have seen are the duties of the national committee. Our duty is to provide health care, treatment, quarantine and so on."
He added that he would discuss the matter with the related ministries so that it would not be repeated.
No shortage of PPE
DGHS DG Abul Kalam Azad said they have acquired 469,502 items of personal protection equipment (PPE). Among them, more than 411,000 have already been distributed while 58000 are in store.
"Supply and distribution is on. There is no shortage of PPE," he added.
The DGHS DG also said 10 people had been put into isolation in the last 24 hours, while three people were released. At present, there are 84 people being kept in isolation.
When asked, he did not specify how many ventilators were available at hospitals.
‘Do not distribute relief on roads’
The health minister thanked individuals and institutions that are distributing relief, but asked them not to on roads or in open places.
"Go to people’s homes and give them relief. If you go to their door, people will not come outside and form crowds, reducing risk of infection," he said.
The fast spreading coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which was first reported in China's Wuhan and causes Covid-19, has claimed over 67,200 lives and infected more than 1,236,700 people across the world until Sunday, according to worldometer.
More than 255,600 people have also recovered from Covid-19, which has spread to 206 countries and territories.