Indian variants are here now
The detection of an Indian variant of the coronavirus and a its subtype called double-mutant in Bangladesh is a worrying sign, especially since the country is just recovering from the second wave of Covid-19.
The strain of the virus that has overwhelmed India's hospitals might jeopardise the healthcare system in Bangladesh unless the strictest measures are taken right now, health experts said.
Officials of the Directorate General of Health Services yesterday told reporters that they detected six cases of the Indian variant, including some with the double-mutant subtype.
Besides, a genome sequencing centre at Jashore Science and Technology University (JSTU) found two other cases of the Indian variant in individuals who recently travelled back from India.
Meanwhile, the government extended the closure of borders with India for 14 more days, UNB reports.
Conditions of the travel ban that has been in effect since April 26 will remain unchanged, said Mashfee Binte Shams, secretary (east) at the foreign ministry.
The government earlier closed the border with India for 14 days with on April 26. Freight operations were exempt from the ban.
Bangladeshis in India with visas valid for less than 15 days can come back only through Benapole, Akhaura and Burimari after taking permission from Bangladesh Missions in New Delhi, Kolkata, and Agartala given that they test negative for coronavirus in a PCR machine in less than 72 hours before entering Bangladesh.
"The Indian variant of coronavirus was detected in a sample test at Evercare Hospital in Dhaka. It has been published on Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data," UNB quoted ASM Alamgir, chief scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), as saying.
At the daily briefing, Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the DGHS, said, "We are concerned about the Indian variant. And everyone else should be concerned."
Professor Iqbal Kabir Zahid, associate director of the JSTU genome centre, said the facility received 16 samples sent by Jashore General Hospital from Bangladeshis travelling back from India.
The double-mutant Indian variant known as B1.617.2 was detected in two of the three samples that tested positive for coronavirus, he said.
The people who tested positive are being treated in isolation, reports our correspondent in Benapole.
Since the borders had been closed, a total of 2,203 Bangladeshis returned from India with special permission through Benapole Land Port as of May 6.
They were quarantined at different government and private facilities in Jashore and four other districts in the region.
Health experts and officials said the authorities should track down everyone who came in contact with the individuals with the Indian variant and have them tested.
WHAT IS THE INDIAN VARIANT?
The India variant known as B.1.617 was first detected in October last year. It is far more transmissible than former strains of the virus.
It was reported more recently that the variant has three different subtypes with slightly different genetic mutations.
The subtype, B.1.617.2, found in Bangladesh, appears to be spreading more quickly than two other subtypes detected by scientists in India.
A study published on April 20 in Cell, a medical journal, said there was a mutation of the Indian variant that increased its potency to infect human cells. In laboratory setting, the double-mutant variant proved to be 20 percent more transmissible, said the study.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier suggested that the Indian variant might have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe symptoms or render vaccines less effective.
The Indian variant has been spotted in at least 21 countries, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database.
India yesterday announced over 4 lakh new cases of Covid-19, taking the country's total caseload to over 2.18 crore. Out of these, over 37 lakh cases are currently active while over 1.79 crore people have recovered.
Health officials in India yesterday reported a record 4,187 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day.
India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections tearing through the populous country with a terrifying speed, depleting the supply of life-saving oxygen to critical levels and leaving patients to die while waiting in line to see doctors, reports AP from New Delhi.
Bangladesh saw a surge of the Covid-19 in April. According to the DGHS, about 80 people were reported dead from Covid-19 every day on an average in April.
The numbers began to fall this month.
Officials at yesterday's briefing said 45 people died from Covid-19 in 24 years while 1,285 new patients were identified.
The positivity rate was 8.74 percent yesterday while the overall positivity rate stood at 13.75 percent.
Prof Sayedur Rahman, chairman of pharmacology at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said scientists in the UK found that the Indian variant to be more contagious than the UK variant.
He said Nepal was about to face the same fate as India.
"Bangladesh government should take the highest measure to contain the transmission. We are in trouble and the situation may turn out to be something beyond our imagination."
Professor Nazrul Islam, member of the national technical advisory committee on Covid-19, said the government failed to seal the border completely and that's why the variant entered Bangladesh.
"The consequences will be grave. We don't follow the health rules, ignore the government directives, and are travelling out of the city. There is no sign of people following the health rules. The coming days might be full of disasters," he said.
People entering Bangladesh from India with special permission would have to stay officially quarantined for two weeks, UNB reports.
Except for the Benapole, Akhaura and Burimari land ports, human movement at the land ports between the two countries would be completely suspended for two weeks, said the latest decision made at a virtual meeting yesterday with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen in the chair.
The vehicles carrying imported goods from India would have to be properly sterilised before entering Bangladesh borders.
The drivers and helpers concerned would have to observe the Covid-19 safety protocol strictly.
Railroads will be encouraged for the export and import of goods between the two countries during this period.
Bangladesh Missions in New Delhi, Kolkata and Agartala will convey the relevant information in this regard to the authorities concerned in India in the light of the friendly relations between the two countries.