As the country reported a record number of daily Covid-19 cases yesterday, the expert committee of the government recommended "partial or modified" lockdown of "high-risk" areas.
The National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 also recommended that some ambiguous terms of an 18-point government directives, issued on Monday to contain the spread the coronavirus, be defined. The directives came after the infections continued to surge over the last three weeks.
"The committee has decided to recommend that the government goes for partial or modified lockdown in areas where the transmission rate is high," Prof Mohammod Shahidullah, NTAC chief, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked to elaborate the term "partial or modified", Shahidullah said, "It is tough to enforce a complete lockdown, so the concept is to identify and isolate Covid-19 patients and ensure that the patients and their whole families remain in quarantine."
"The partial or modified lockdown can be well defined after consultation with public health experts," he said, adding that the committee sat on Tuesday night to review the current situation.
According to the health directorate, the government has classified Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Chattogram as "high risk" zones. Four districts -- Rangamati, Rajshahi, Rajbari, and Narsingdi -- have been classified as "medium risk" zones while 27 have been bracketed as "low risk zone".
The chief of the technical committee also said they suggested that vigorous scientific research should be done to find out the reasons behind the second wave of Covid-19 and the strains responsible for it.
The committee also suggested that the government increases the number of general and ICU beds at hospitals for coronavirus patients.
The country yesterday reported 5,358 new cases, the highest for a single day since the first cases were reported on March 8 last year.
The number of daily cases hit the 5,000-mark for three straight days.
The current positivity rate is 19.90 percent while the total positivity rate stands at 13.09 percent, according to data of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The country reported 52 more deaths yesterday, the highest daily figure since August 26 when 54 deaths were recorded.
Prof Iqbal Arsalan, president of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad and also a member of the technical committee, said strategic plan and actions based on the government directives should be devised immediately.
He also said the committee advised the government to replace the words "limited" and "discourage" mentioned in two directives with "specific number" and "stop" respectively.
Contacted, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, "I also agree with the experts' views. I think if we cannot control the situation right now, the casualties will be high. Once the situation gets out of control, it would be difficult to contain.
"Now it is time to be strict to curb the transmission," he said, adding that the existing directives will be reviewed soon if they do not bring the desired outcome.
Prof Nazrul Islam, another member of the NTAC, said the directives were basically "directives in principal", but how those would be implemented is not clear.
"So, the meeting decided to formulate an implementation strategy soon and implement it accordingly," he said.
The former vice-chancellor of BSMMU said immediate actions are needed before the situation gets out of control.
Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, consultant at Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said it was about time to go for a targeted approach.
"Effective and timely intervention is required in those areas where transmission rate is high. Enforcing shutdown is the last weapon. If we fail to contain the transmission with the existing directives, we will be left with no other option but the last weapon."