Put 8 districts on lockdown now
Health officials yesterday recommended immediate "strict lockdown" of eight districts that have witnessed an average of over 30 percent Covid-19 positivity rate for a week.
In Chapainawabganj, seven individuals, who have not travelled to India recently, tested positive for the Indian variant of the coronavirus, leading researchers to believe that the variant is being transmitted in the community.
The local administration in Chapainawabganj already enforced strict restrictions on mobility until Monday. The other districts recommended for "lockdown" are Naogaon, Rajshahi, Natore, Kushtia, Jashore, Khulna and Satkhira.
"Considering the latest situation, we recommended that the Cabinet Division enforce strict lockdown in the districts. The Directorate General of Health Services will send the recommendation to the Cabinet via the health ministry," Abu Jamil Faisal, member of the Epidemiology and Public Health Committee of the health directorate, told The Daily Star last night after the committee held a meeting.
Meanwhile, the chief of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) yesterday said the Indian variant of coronavirus has transmitted in the community as 13 new cases of the variant have been detected in several districts.
"Seven of the 13 new patients have not been to India recently. The Indian variant has certainly started transmitting among local people," IEDCR Director Prof Tahmina Shirin told The Daily Star yesterday.
One other locally transmitted case of the Indian variant was detected earlier in Jashore and the total number of people carrying the variant is now 20, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing all Influenza Data (GISAID).
Detecting the specific variant of a virus requires genome sequencing, a complicated and expensive process that takes 3-7 days to complete.
The weekly epidemiological analysis of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), meanwhile, showed that compared to the previous week, the nationwide transmission of coronavirus has increased by around 22 percent in the seven days preceding yesterday.
The latest weekly analysis identified over 30 districts as high-risk zones with 10 percent or higher positivity rates, up from 25 districts in the previous week.
The situation in Dhaka, Sylhet and Cox's Bazar is also concerning, Faisal said.
TRANSMISSION ON THE RISE
When around 80 lakh people reportedly travelled out of the capital and returned after the Eid holidays earlier this month, epidemiologists expressed concerns that the transmission rate might spike again.
On May 18, the national positivity rate rose to 8 percent and continued rising slowly and steadily, reaching 10 percent on Tuesday. Yesterday's positivity rate was 7.91 percent against 13,184 tests.
According to the weekly epidemiological analysis by the DGHS, 9,660 people, including 1,043 in the 24 hours preceding 8:00am yesterday, tested positive in the past week.
The number was 7,930 in the previous week.
The number of tests also increased by over 6 percent, reaching 1,09,651 from 1,03,121 the week before.
Since the second wave of coronavirus began in the second week of March, the daily positivity rate rose to the highest 23 percent on April 1. On April 16, the transmission started declining amid the countrywide travel restrictions imposed on April 5. The rate fell to the lowest, around 7 percent, on May 12.
"Although the transmission has not spiked after Eid, it has not declined the way it was declining before Eid. Now the Indian variant has spread to the community level and the restrictions have been lifted. Now all of a sudden, we can see spikes in Covid-19 cases in several districts," IEDCR Consultant Mushtuq Hussain told The Daily Star yesterday.
First detected in India last year, the Indian variant, known as B.1.617, is the fourth variant of concern which is more transmissible and has spread to 50 countries so far.
On May 8, the IEDCR detected the first two cases of the Indian variant in Bangladesh.
"If Covid-19 cases rise suddenly in a remote district, it will be tough to tackle the situation with inadequate health facilities in those areas," he added.