It is most unfortunate that Bangladesh has become one of the top 20 countries in the world in terms of the number of people infected with Covid-19 as the country reported 63,026 positive cases until yesterday. While Belgium, the western European country that Bangladesh has replaced with its rising number of Covid-19 cases, detected its first coronavirus patient in February, and reportedly, has been recording less than 400 cases every day since mid-May, three months after the first Covid-19 case was detected in Bangladesh, around 3,000 new cases are being officially confirmed here every day, with the number of deaths also rising steadily. Sadly, this is the case when only around 10 to 15 thousand tests are being conducted every day. If 3,000 people test positive among 10,000, we can easily guess the actual number of cases.
Apparently, a number of factors have contributed to this negative development in Bangladesh, the government's downplaying and mishandling of the pandemic from the very beginning being the most important reason among them, as health experts have claimed. The health ministry and the DGHS did not give due importance on increasing the number of tests, contract tracing and isolating people who were at risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Sadly, these steps have still not been prioritised. Also, not enough was done to make people follow the directives of the government regarding maintaining lockdown and social distancing measures. While people's disregard for health safety has also been a big reason for the spike in new cases, lack of awareness raising programmes among the public is also to blame. While in some of our neighbouring countries curfew was declared to stop people from coming out of their homes, our government did not take strong enough action to declare such emergencies.
Our collective failure in taking the required measures has helped spread the virus to such an alarming level. Now, our weak healthcare system is overburdened with Covid-19 patients as the curve is going up. Although the government has given directive to all hospitals and clinics to have separate treatment facilities for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients amid the surge in new cases, only a handful of hospitals have made such preparations. Even the designated hospitals for Covid-19 have been struggling to provide treatment to the rising number of patients. Every day, we are coming across reports of patients being denied treatment by hospitals and dying on the street. Our hospitals have a very limited number of ICU beds and ventilators, and most of them do not even have a central oxygen supply system.
In order to face the impending challenge, the government needs to heed the suggestions given by the health experts and the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) and strictly implement their recommendations which include ensuring uninterrupted oxygen supplies at hospitals, increasing the ICU beds on a priority basis, increasing the number of tests, conducting proper contract tracing, etc.