Significant rise in cases noticed in 15 districts along Indo-Bangla border
The Covid-19 infection rate is showing a notable upward trend in districts that share borders with India at a time when the neighboring country is grappling with an alarming upsurge of new cases, deaths and oxygen shortage.
Last three weekly Covid-19 Bangladesh situation reports of the World Health Organization noted that in the past two weeks, infection rates in different districts have changed radically, with the bordering areas seeing a significant rise in cases.
The infographics presented in the WHO report No 63 (May 3 to 9) showed that the weekly infection rate is higher in the districts accommodating densely populated cities.
But WHO report 65, (May 17 to 23) showed that most of the districts with higher infection rates were the ones lying along or close to the border with India.
The statistics, however, do not mean that infection in the densely populated districts has decreased. Instead, it reflects that infection rates have surged several times more in the bordering areas than they were two week earlier.
15 bordering districts on focus
Among the 22 districts that logged 100% or more of Covid 19 cases last week (ending May 23), 15 of them are along the Indo-Bangla border.
Chapanawabganj, one of the bordering districts in Rajshahi division, saw a huge jump in the infection rate (62%) on Wednesday, when 33 out of 56 samples tested positive. The figure slipped to 58% on Thursday-- but was still higher compared to other bordering districts.
The district’s Civil Surgeon Zahid Nazrul said Chapanawabganj had already been put under a weeklong lockdown starting from Tuesday.
“We are still waiting to see if the restrictions will help reduce the number of infections in the next few days,” he said on Thursday, adding that the authorities had not received any order to extend the lockdown.
In Naogaon, the results of 19 out of 92 samples came back positive on Thursday.
The infection rate in Rajshahi city was less than 18%, claimed the district’s Civil Surgeon Kaiyum Talukdar.
Sources at Rajshahi Medical College (RMC) and Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH), where samples collected from neighboring districts are tested, said the infection rate had doubled in the 24 hours till Thursday.
RMC lab in-charge Dr Sabera Gul Nahar said 55 out of 126 samples collected from the district were found to be Covid positive on Thursday.
Chuadanga, a bordering district in Khulna division, is among the 15 districts where the infection rate has kept on spiraling. Between May 17 and 23, the figure hovered around 24%.
The district Civil Surgeon ASM Maruf Hasan said the figure rising above 20% appeared as a matter of concern for the authorities.
What’s behind the infection surge?
Sources at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told Dhaka Tribune that a significant number of people left Chapainawabganj on Sunday after the announcement of strict lockdown, which pushed up the number of cases in Rajshahi and Naogaon.
Rajshahi Civil Surgeon Talukder, however, argued: “This is not the main reason behind the recent increase in Covid 19 detection in the district. But it is adding additional numbers in the tally.”
Civil Surgeon of Jessore Sheikh Abu Sufian claimed that they had not seen any visible changes in the bordering district recently, as compared to the average test positivity rate of 25% in April.
“We managed to keep the infection rate within the 20% mark because those returning from India are being quarantined and monitored regularly,” he said.
Dhaka Tribune district correspondents have said these bordering districts are major sources of services by day labourers in different cities across the country. They returned home during the Eid holidays and might have contributed to the upward trend.
DGHS Director General Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam said a significant number of people from Chapainawabganj who came to work in Dhaka’s Dohar as labourers were taken under quarantine as some of them were found to be infected.
“Necessary measures have been taken in the bordering districts where the infection rate is growing. We will take all possible measures to control the virus transmission,” he added.
He added that a strict lockdown in Chapainawabganj would be extended if necessary.
Which bordering districts seem ‘safe’?
The bordering districts in the eastern and western parts of the country are said to be in a much better state. Rangamati, being one of them, kept on registering 1-3% infection rate since early May. But the rate jumped to 25% on May 23, and the figure was measured at 6.8% on Wednesday.
“The infection rate was zero on May 6. But a week after the Eid holidays, the infection rate started to increase significantly. We recorded its highest infection rate [25%] on May 23,” said Rangamati Civil Surgeon Bipash Khisa.
Sylhet Civil Surgeon Dr. Premananda Mondol said that the daily infection rate was under 10 percent in Sylhet.
Our Sylhet Correspondent Serajul Islam and Rajshahi Correspondent Dulal Abdullah also contributed to this report