They say half-hearted preventive measures and lack of seriousness of local administrations are among the major reasons behind the worsening Covid situation in the country
As the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 has made its way into Dhaka and other districts from frontier ones, experts fear an impending health catastrophe in the coming weeks since there is no strict measure in place to stop it.
They said half-hearted preventive measures, lack of seriousness of local administrations, reopening of intra-district transport services and people’s apathy to maintain health safety guidelines are the major reasons behind the worsening Covid situation in the country.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has recently found 80% of a randomly selected sample of 50 Covid patients infected with the Delta variant.
It also said the deadly variant has spread to parts of central Bangladesh, including the capital, while seven workers of Ashrayan Project in Nawabganj upazila of Dhaka have been detected with the same virus strain.
The sudden spike in virus cases has put a severe strain on four major hospitals ---Rajshahi Medical College, Khulna Medical College, Chapainawabganj and Kushtia General Hospital--with increasing patients from 11 nearby districts.
Experts said the government should immediately increase the number of beds, doctors and nurses and treatment facilities, in these hospitals to cope with the pressure of Covid patients.
The virus infection has been showing an upward trend in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Naogaon, Kushtia, Jessore , Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Natore, Noakhali and Cox's Bazar districts for several days.
Many hospitals in these districts have not yet been equipped with central oxygen supply, necessary ICU beds, high-flow nasal cannula and other Covid treatment facilities, contributing to increasing the fatality rate.
Terrible time ahead
Prof Dr Mohammod Robed Amin, spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said it seems a terrible time ahead as the rate of Covid transmission has been increasing alarmingly.
“Our infection rate had come down to below 7% early last month, but it’s now growing gradually. Our virus transmission has become unstable. Over 12,000 cases have been reported in the last 8 days of this month,” he said.
Robed said the highly infectious Delta variant has already hit many frontier districts and it is now spreading to different other areas of the country. “We’re unable to contain the virus transmission locally. Some people with the variant have already been identified in Dhaka. It’s very alarming.”
He said it is still a good sign that the virus cases have not been growing significantly in the central part of the country, including Dhaka. "But the way people are being diagnosed with Indian strain in different areas, we fear a serious outbreak of the virus in the days to come.”
Controlling direct and indirect sources of infection
IEDCR consultant Prof Mushtuq Hussain said the virus cases doubled in many districts over the last few days. “The hospitals in the frontier districts are now overwhelmed. These are the signs of a serious outbreak of the virus.”
Under the situation, he said, preventive measures should be strengthened all over the country. “Those who are being infected must be brought under treatment and isolation. As over 90% of infected people stay at home, necessary support should be given to them so that they need not go outside. If we can do this, we’ll be able to control the direct source of infection.”
To control the indirect source, the expert said, health safety guidelines must be followed and cent percent mask use will have to be ensured. “Besides, people’s movement should be strictly controlled by enforcing stringent lockdowns in the areas where the transmission rate is high.”
He said those who are found infected with Indian variant in Dhaka and other parts of the country will have to be kept in isolation and people coming in contact with them should be identified and kept in quarantine.
Besides, Prof Mushtuq, said logistic support and manpower for providing healthcare in the badly-affected areas should be enhanced. “Adequate oxygen supply should be ensured in the hospitals where the number of patients is growing. If the patient with low saturation level can be given oxygen support initially, they’ll recover fast.”
Change in transmission route
Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said the coronavirus situation has become complicated in the country. “Earlier, the virus used to hit major cities, including Dhaka and Chittagong, and then it spread to other areas. But now there has been an outbreak of the virus in bordering areas, and it is now spreading to central areas and different cities. The type of outbreak of the virus is now very aggressive as we know Delta strain is much more contagious than any other ones.”
Dr Lenin said many of those who are getting infected with the Indian strain, need oxygen support at the initial stage. “It’s a bad sign which can lead to a rising fatality rate. The Delta variant can mount huge pressure on the immune system of the infected people. That’s why we've seen many Covid patients in India have been infected with black fungus as a post-Covid complication.”
Making central medical pool
Dr Lenin said a central medical pool should be made immediately to provide support to the virus-hit areas. “We see when the virus cases go up in any particular area, patients suffer from bed, oxygen doctors, and nurse crisis there. So, we can make a central medical pool to overcome such a problem.”
“For an example, the Covid patients are surging in Joypurhat and Natore, but the hospitals there are not ready to tackle the situation. So, we can send the necessary doctors, nurses, beds and oxygen and other equipment there from the central pool if we can form it,” he said.
Lenin also said the capacity of carrying out tests will have to be increased substantially to identify the infected people quickly and send them to isolation. “Or else, undetected people will turn into super spreaders of the virus and the transmission can’t be controlled.”