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Covid-19 in Bangladesh: Death rate contradicts positive outlook

  • Published at 04:25 pm September 22nd, 2020
Coronavirus Test
File photo: People wait in queue for hours - with no regard for social distancing - to get tested for Covid-19 at the Central Police Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Since August 3, the test positivity rate has been in decline

A rising Covid-19 mortality rate in Bangladesh suggests the public should remain cautious, even though a declining test positivity rate provides some grounds for optimism.

The daily test positivity rate in the country dipped to under 11% (10.9%) on Tuesday, the lowest since June 1. On the other hand, the mortality rate has been steadily climbing and has now reached 1.42%.

Experts fear the numbers may not be indicative of the real situation in the country due to insufficient testing, and the situation may spiral out of control if people stop following health guidelines in their optimism.

According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the highest daily positivity rate (32%) in the country was recorded on August 3, a month after the government set a fee for Covid-19 tests.  

Since August 3, the test positivity rate has been in decline.

On the other hand, the lowest death rate was recorded on July 4. Since then, the death rate has been increasing. 

Insufficient testing makes assessing situation difficult

Virology Professor Nazrul Islam, former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said: “Lapses in Covid-19 management have made it hard to realize when the peak of Covid-19 occurred in the country. It seems like the country may eventually fail to estimate when the second wave could emerge.

Also Read - Covid-19: Death toll crosses 5,000 in Bangladesh

“You can detect the second wave if you have no positive case or the trend is near the neutral point,” added Prof Nazrul, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19.

He said stopping the daily health bulletin on the pandemic may have given the people a false sense that there is no risk of infection, leading to more people flouting health guidelines.

Prof Ridwanur Rahman, head of Universal Medical College Research Centre, said fewer Covid 19 tests are hindering efforts to assess the real situation in the country.

Also Read - Covid-19 body count crosses 5,000: How Bangladesh has fared against other

“The UK has conducted tests equivalent to one out of four people. As per that standard, Bangladesh should have tested 40,000,000 people by now,” he added, saying that Bangladesh needs to test about 200,000 people a day to conduct a proper assessment of the situation.

The infectious disease expert further said that at least 20,000 tests a day would give some idea of the trend in Covid-19 infection, but even that is insufficient for an accurate projection.

According to Prof Ridwanur, the government could have used the less expensive and quicker antigen test to reach the testing target.

Mistrust of health services hindering effective treatment

He also said many people who did not get tested and died outside hospitals may not have been counted as Covid-19 deaths in the country and expressed concern regarding public mistrust of health services.

“Many people are going to the hospital at the critical stage, which is far too late,” Prof Ridwanur said.

Citing a US report, he also mentioned that full recovery from Covid-19 takes a long time and this data is missing in the country.

The Bangla version of Voice of America quoted WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, as saying that Bangladesh is still in the community transmission stage and it cannot be determined how transmission is taking place.

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