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Forecast: Covid-19 peak a month away in Bangladesh

  • Published at 06:22 pm December 27th, 2020
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File photo of People wearing mask on Dhaka street Reuters

No alternative to mandatory mask use, avoiding social gatherings

The second wave of coronavirus is likely to reach its peak in Bangladesh between late January and early February next year, according to a new projection.

During its peak, the number of daily cases may reach 14,000 and the demand for hospital beds may surge to around 8,000 per day, the projection finds.

By end of June 2021, about 50.8% of the population will be infected and cumulative deaths among the infected may reach 24,000, said the forecast titled “Covid-19 in Bangladesh: Potential interventions and impacts”.

Both the number of infections and casualties will go up in late January and early February if the necessary interventions are not in place, Dr Shafiun Shimul, an associate professor of health economics at Dhaka University and member of the researcher group, told Dhaka Tribune.

Besides Shimul, Syed Abdul Hamid from the Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University, Mofakhar Hussain of IHPME at University of Toronto, Nusrat Jabin of University of Oxford and Dr Abul Jamil Faisel, public health advisory committee member at the Directorate General of Health Services, came up with the projection.

The researchers said the projected rates would reduce if initiatives such as mandatory mask use and avoidance of social gatherings are enforced.

The researchers, who are part of the Covid-19 Modelling (CoMo) Consortium, used data and evidence gathered by the consortium and analysed it using other country specific data that is available, said Shimul.

CoMo Consortium is a consortium of modelers, public health experts and policy makers from over 40 countries that provides decision making support to policy makers.

“We analysed available data like infection rate, contact rate, death and infection data, availability of hospital beds and age of patients, etc, to prepare the projection. But a lack of information remains a core challenge and, because of this, we sometimes use international evidence,” said Shimul.

The researcher said interventions, such as limiting public gatherings to 100 persons and private gatherings to 10 persons, mandatory mask use, and closing down educational institutions till January, would reduce projected rates.

With interventions, the infection rate may come down to 47.8% whereas daily cases may come down to 8,000 and cumulative deaths may go down to 17,000, the research finds.

If the interventions are in place, the surge in demand for hospital beds could be reduced by 40% and ICU bed demand could be reduced by 46%.

The researcher team has been sharing their projections with the DGHS since April 22 and is in touch with Covid-19 advisors of the DGHS to help them predict upcoming situations.

“There is no alternative to mass testing. Testing has remained at about 15,000 per day in most recent weeks, which needs to be increased to between 20,000 to 25,000 per day at the least,” said Shimul.

He also suggested popularising antigen testing to help people get rapid testing facilities.

Bangladesh has registered over 7000 deaths and half a million cases from Covid-19 in the country since March.

Although new cases had been declining until the beginning of November, a slow but steady increase has been seen since. The number of deaths have also been on the rise.

When asked about the projections, Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general at the Directorate General of Health Services, told Dhaka Tribune that coronavirus cases would go up if people do not maintain health guidelines.

“We make our own projections too and maintaining health advisories are crucial to containing Covid-19 transmission. The Covid-19 transmission rate is comparatively low now, but transmission remains. While some people maintain health advisories voluntarily, initiatives should be taken to raise awareness among people on the mandatory use of masks and avoiding of public gatherings,” she added.