Infection surges in border dists
With the Covid positivity rate rising above 30 percent yesterday in three districts bordering India, health officials warned that the virus transmission may surge again in the country due to increased public movement and disregard for the health safety rules.
They also said the resumption of inter-district public transport could contribute to further spread of the virus.
The daily Covid positivity rate has been on the rise over the last one week. It was recorded at 8.15 percent in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday, which was 6.95 percent on May 15.
But the rate was abnormally high in three bordering districts -- 55 percent in Chapainawabganj, 42 percent in Satkhira and 33 percent in Rajshahi -- yesterday. It was 20 percent in Jashore, according to data collected by The Daily Star from the civil surgeons and health officials in those districts.
All the three districts share borders with India, which has been seeing a surge in Covid cases and deaths following the detection of a double mutant variant of the virus.
In this situation, the Bangladesh government has kept the borders with the neighbouring country closed since last month.
In Bangladesh, nine cases of the Indian variant have so far been confirmed by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
The World Health Organization has classified the variant as a "variant of global concern", which transmits easily, causes more severe illness, and has the capacity to evade treatment and vaccines.
Meanwhile, the Chapainawabganj district administration enforced a 7-day strict lockdown from yesterday to check the virus transmission, reports our correspondent in the district.
Describing the situation in the district as "severe", Deputy Commissioner Monjurul Hafeez said, "The Indian variant may have spread in the district despite the fact that the authorities ensured 14-day institutional quarantine of all India returnees."
Health experts say the higher the positivity rate, the grater the concern is.
According to the WHO recommendations in May last year, the Covid positivity rate has to remain below 5 percent for at least two weeks before governments can consider reopening.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Prof Tahmina Shirin, director at the IEDCR, said, "Virus transmission in several bordering districts is rising. Of the districts, Chapainawabganj saw the highest number of cases.
"Besides, Jashore, Jhenaidah and several other districts are also seeing a rise in Covid infections. The positivity rate was between 20 and 30 percent in these districts."
Tahmina also said the IEDCR has enhanced surveillance in those districts, and the local administration will decide on further steps to curb the spread of the virus.
Health officials said the positivity rate was above 10 percent yesterday in at least a dozen districts, including Khulna, Sylhet, Kushtia, Lalmonirhat and Kurigram.
The districts seeing positivity rate of 10 percent and above are considered as "high-risk" zones, they mentioned.
The positivity rate in these districts was below 10 percent before the Eid holidays. It has been on the rise over the last one week, the officials pointed out.
Hussain Shafaat, civil surgeon in Satkhira, said, "We have been seeing a spike in virus cases for the last one week. We ran tests on around 20 symptomatic cases a day before the Eid-ul-Fitr and found one or two positive cases or even none. Yesterday, 67 samples were tested and 28 of those were found positive."
Contacted, Mushtuq Hussain, consultant at the IEDCR, said, "In our last week's [till May 22] analysis, we marked Chapainawabganj, Khulna, Sylhet and Satkhira as high-risk districts. The virus transmission is also rising in the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar."
Health officials said there could be links between the rise in virus transmission and the return of Bangladeshis from India and increased public movement in recent days.
Tahmina said, "The rise could have been caused by the Covid-infected people returning from India. The Indian variant cannot be solely blamed for this. There is a chance of further rise in the virus transmission due to the relaxation of restrictions on public movement and plying of vehicles.
"This is the time for mango harvest. Many people will carry mangoes to the capital and other parts of the country from these bordering districts. This will raise the chance of further spread of the virus," she added.
DAILY COVID UPDATE
The health directorate reported 25 deaths from the novel coronavirus in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday.
Another 1,441 infections were recorded during the period, taking the total number to 790,521.
Of the dead, 21 were men and four women. Thirteen of them were above 60 while the rest were between 21 and 60, according to the IEDCR.
With this, the total number of deaths stood at 12,401, and the overall death rate was 1.57 percent.
At least 834 Covid patients recovered in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday, taking the total number to 731,531.
[Our correspondents in Rajshahi, Dinajpur and Sylhet contributed to this report.]