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Experts: Relaxed lockdown not effective in curbing Covid-19

  • Published at 04:34 pm April 5th, 2021
A volunteer uses a loudspeaker to raise awareness on the first day of the week-long lockdown in Dhaka on Monday, April 5, 2021 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

They fear worsening situation ahead

As the nationwide week-long lockdown began, experts have raised questions about its effectiveness as people were seen flouting various restrictions imposed by the government.

Although public transports like buses did not ply on the road, people were seen using other modes of transportation to reach their workplaces amid the lockdown on Monday. 

Experts said implementing the lockdown in a relaxed manner would not be fully effective in curbing the recent spike in Covid-19 transmission.

Saying that the current lockdown was rather some restrictions being imposed unwisely, they urged the government to take strict action to ensure people follow health safety rules.

Public health expert Dr Biddut Barun, deputy director (planning and development) of Chittagong Medical University, said usually a lockdown was imposed when the authorities failed to create awareness among people.

“This lockdown can definitely lower the transmission rate. But without making sure that every citizen follows health safety rules, it could become unsuccessful,” Dr Barun said.

Saying that people from lower income brackets were defying health safety rules the most, he said it was easier for upper class people to comply with lockdown rules than for middle and lower income people

He said something was needed to address this contradictory situation.

Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC), said the government needed to ensure livelihoods for lower income people first.

“Without a guarantee of food, people will not accept the lockdown anyway. That’s why we are seeing traders’ protests amid lockdown,” he opined. 

According to the eminent virologist, the government needed to trace infected people properly and isolate them before they could infect others. 

He said the authorities did not conduct any contact tracing since the beginning of this year while isolation and quarantine were in a mess.

Mentioning the lack of coordination between government bodies, he said the health authorities needed to ensure the implementation of health safety guidelines.

Dr Nazrul Islam said wearing masks properly, which was a solution to the problem, was never enforced strictly although the health authorities had repeatedly urged people to do it.

The authorities had to strictly ensure that people wore masks and took legal action against those defying the rules, he added.

Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) chief Prof Khurshid Alam said the lockdown had been imposed for people’s safety and people defying the rules would face legal action.

Experts fear worse situation ahead

Bangladesh is experiencing an alarming increase in Covid-19 infections as over 7,000 cases were recorded for the first time in the last two days. 

At present, the test positivity rate is just over 23%. The highest positivity rate was 32% on August 3. If the infection rate continues to increase, Bangladesh could see 10,000 cases in a day soon. 

Virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, however, said the current test positivity rate was at the same level as it was during July and early August last year. All everyone could hope for was that the test positivity rate would not increase much anymore.  

Dr Rabeya Sharmin, associate professor at the virology department at Dhaka Medical College (DMC), said the hospital was seeing 30-35% positivity at the DMC lab during Covid-19 tests and a significant number of the people were asymptomatic. They were mostly tested as routine checks before any surgery or admitting them in the hospital. 

“Given the unruly situation that we saw during the day of the medical admission tests, there is a fear that the situation could take a turn for the worse,” she said, adding that the real situation would be known 10-12 days from now.

It would also create huge pressure on the hospital facilities as well, she added. 

Echoing her , Dr Nazrul Islam said the government should have taken measures to increase the number of beds and other necessary treatment facilities months ago.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said last week that the authorities were working to add some 2,500 beds, including 50 ICUs and 200 HDUs within this month.  

According to the DGHS, some 11 ICUs and 201 general beds were unoccupied till Monday morning at the government hospitals. 

However, relatives of patients complained that they did not get beds at several hospitals in Dhaka, while Kurmitola General Hospital and Rajarbag police hospital were seen providing services beyond their capacity.

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