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Coronavirus: Bangladesh health minister admits large scale community transmission

  • Published at 05:26 pm April 13th, 2020
Old Dhaka-crowd-Mahmud Hossain Opu
This Old Dhaka street saw higher foot traffic on Thursday, April 2, 2020, compared to past week, amid a government-enforced nationwide soft shutdown aimed to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Despite five more deaths and 182 new cases in 24 hours, Zahid Maleque says the coucommunity transmissionntry is still doing great

As the curve keeps rising, Bangladesh on Monday saw 182 people testing positive for the the coronavirus, the highest single-day count so far.

Besides the newly confirmed cases - a whopping 30% rise from the day before - another five people died, raising the death toll to 39.

Till date, the country reported 803 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, which is 15 times higher than it was on April 1 with 54 infections.

At the same time, three people have recovered taking the number of recovered cases to 42.

Disclosing the updates in an online health bulletin, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the growing infections and deaths are a result of community transmission across the country.

This is the first time that any higher-up government official admitted to the fact that community transmission is taking place widely.

Previously on March 25, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Director Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora had said they suspect community transmission of Sars-Cov2 had been happening on a limited scale.

“However, it is unlikely that community transmission is happening all across Bangladesh,” she said at that time.

Prior to that, the government denied that community transmission of Sars-Cov2 was even occurring. 

Community transmissions occur when the source of the infection can no longer be traced, unlike local transmissions where an individual comes in contact with an infected person who has travelled aboard.

Meanwhile, at least a total of four people died with symptoms similar to those of Covid-19 in Chapainawabganj, Rangamati, Savar and Narail, from Sunday night till Monday.

As Covid-19 cases continue to increase rapidly in the country, local authorities have started to bring their respective areas under lockdown.

On Sunday and Monday, several more districts and upazilas including Moulvibazar, Netrokona, Barisal, Savar, and Tungipara were locked down by the respective deputy commissioners and upazila nirbahi officers.

The detection of increasing Covid-19 infections throughout the country is being possible owing to the upward trend of coronavirus tests.

Some 1,570 samples were tested in 17 countrywide centres in the last 24 hours, which was 17% higher compared to Sunday’s estimate, said Additional Director General (administration) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Nasima Sultana.

The collection of samples also jumped significantly by 38% on Monday, she said.

Interestingly, IEDCR Director Meerjady, who usually analyzes information about the testing, those infected and the deceased every day, did not join yesterday’s bulletin. 

Govt initiatives

Zahid Maleque said, the government, has been working to bring some 400 to 500 ventilators and oxygen generators in the country.

“However, it has become difficult to acquire those due to the present global situation,” the minister said.

Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital and Anwer Khan Modern Medical College Hospital, having ICU facilities, are now prepared to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients, informed the minister.

“Others private hospitals in all other districts will also be prepared to provide treatment soon,” he added.

‘Community transmission fuelled by Dhaka, Narayanganj returnees’

Mentioning the countrywide infection history of the disease, Maleque said most of the newly infected people are from Dhaka and Narayanganj, the two biggest clusters for community transmission of Covid-19.

He said: “I have discussed with the directors of medical college hospitals across the country. According to them most of the new infections in district level occurred due to coming in contact with Dhaka and Narayanganj returnees.”

“We have to take harsh steps and enforced lockdowns in those areas strictly. We are trying our level best by following the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”

Calling out people who are not abiding by the rules, he said: “We noticed that people are not following the lockdowns properly. Many have gathered in markets as well as roaming around unnecessarily. These activities must be stopped.”

‘Bangladesh in good condition as compared to Europe, US’ 

The health minister also compared Bangladesh’s infection rate. 

He said: “You know that thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands are getting infected with this deadly virus regularly in Europe and America.

“The condition of Bangladesh is still good. We want to continue this,” he said.

However, the number of tests being done in the US and European countries is considerably higher compared to Bangladesh.

On April 12, Germany carried out 1,317,887 tests and it has a population of 83 million which is almost half of that of Bangladesh

Italy and Russia carried out about a million tests each on the same day and both of them have even smaller populations than Germany.

The USA conducted about 289,548 tests on April 12 and has a population of 328.2 million.

So, even if there are thousands of people dying in the US and in European countries they are being able to detect the infections and provide healthcare due to higher number of tests.

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