Coronavirus: A storm brewing
Ten people died from Covid-19 and 341 tested positive in 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday, with public health experts warning that the country is now going through the third stage of coronavirus transmission when the virus spreads quickly.
This was the highest number of deaths and infections reported so far in a single day.
The death toll now stands at 60 and the total number of detected cases at 1,572. In the 24 hours, 2,019 samples were tested, officials said in a daily bulletin on the country's coronavirus situation.
Overall, 9.2 percent of all samples have tested positive, which is higher compared to the countries hit hard by the pandemic, including Italy, Spain and the USA, at a similar stage.
Talking on the issue, Ridwanur Rahman, a renowned medicine and infectious disease specialist, said most of the coronavirus cases in the country were going unreported as "only a small number of samples" were being tested daily.
He also warned of tougher days ahead. He believes the situation was likely to take a turn for the worse as the authorities lost the opportunity to control the situation a long time ago.
"The country now is crossing the third stage of coronavirus transmission. The fourth and final stage is when death cases hit the peak," he said.
"From next week, we are likely to see a higher number of deaths every day … A lack of coordination from the health department is to blame," he told The Daily Star.
He said the available data indicated that Bangladesh was heading towards a "disastrous" situation, following the footstep of Italy, Spain and the USA.
Based on a scientific method of estimation, he claimed that the actual number of Covid-19 patients in the country could be "100 times higher" than that of the cases reported. "The number of tests being carried out daily is too little to know the reality."
He said data indicated that more and more people with common fever and cold were being tested positive for the coronavirus. "If 50 percent of all with fever and cold are tested, then we can get the real number of patients."
He also said, "The authorities claim that they are well prepared [to tackle the situation]. But the information given by them on the preparedness is far from the ground reality."
Like most countries across the world, the authorities in Bangladesh are using the PCR technique, a gold-standard technology for Covid-19 confirmation, which detects pieces of the coronavirus through analysing sputum or mucus samples collected from the human body -- nasal and throat.
The expert said the technique has some drawbacks. "One in every four confirmed coronavirus cases tested false negative. So there is a need for a second test."
On March 8, the authorities reported the first death from Covid-19 in the country. On April 9, the authorities for the first time reported more than a hundred cases (112) in a single day.
In the last eight days, the number of detected cases have continued to jump.
In yesterday's bulletin, aired online, Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said of those 10 who died in 24 hours since 2:30 three were females and seven males.
Six of them were from Dhaka while the rest from elsewhere.
One of the 100 was aged between 71 and 80, five between 61 and 70, three between 51 and 60 and the other two between 21 and 30, she said.
"Some 2,019 samples were tested in the 24 hours. The number of tests increased by 16 percent and sample collection by 4 percent from the previous day."
She also said 37 patients were taken into isolation in the 24 hours. increasing the total to 461. Nine were released. Around 4,499 people were in home quarantine and some 715 people were put in the institutional quarantine.
Currently, 33,300 people are in home quarantine and 3,274 are in institutional quarantine across the country, she added.
So far, the highest number of cases have been detected in Dhaka followed by Narayanganj, which is dubbed the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh.
Till now, the virus has spread to 40 of the 64 districts.
The government is increasing the treatment facilities. Now, there are 192 ICU facilities across the country, according to the DGHS.
Some 488 institutions were readied for quarantine where 26,352 people could be accommodated, it said.
Meanwhile, Habibur Rahman Khan, additional secretary of the Health Service Division of the health and family welfare ministry, said four staffers of the IEDCR had tested coronavirus positive on April 7. No new cases have been detected there since then.
Following the detection, IEDCR Director Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora and some of her colleagues were working from home.
Talking to The Daily Star, Prof Sabrina said, "We are continuing our work by maintaining social distance."
WHOLE COUNTRY AT RISK
In another development, the government yesterday declared that the entire country was at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic as the infection spread to its various parts.
DGHS Director General Prof Abul Kalam Azad issued a notice in this regard.
"The virus has spread to many areas of the country. As it spreads from person to person, it will not be possible to prevent the spread of the virus if physical distancing is not ensured," said the notice.
"Bangladesh has been declared at risk of infection under the Infectious Diseases (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act 2018," it said.
Contacted, Prof Azad said, "The issuance of the circular doesn't mean that the risk has increased in Bangladesh all of a sudden. But it [circular] was necessary to help implement the steps taken by the government."
He said the emergency services would remain as the same mentioned in the previous circulars.
"People must stay at home to contain the spread of the virus. No one should go out unless it's an absolute emergency. No one will be allowed to stay outside from 6:00pm to 6:00am," the notice.
The DHGS warned that stern action will be taken if anyone violated the directive.