Surge in deaths rings alarm | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 18, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, April 18, 2020

Surge in deaths rings alarm

15 Covid-19 deaths in a single day; expert fears high fatality as strain from Italy could have spread by returnees

Deaths from Covid-19 hit a new high as the authorities said another 15 people died in 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday, taking the official death toll to 75.

This is so far the highest number of deaths reported in a single day.

Besides, 266 new cases of infection were confirmed over the same period, bringing the total number of detected coronavirus cases in the country to 1,838.

Talking to The Daily Star on the rising number of deaths and infections, an infectious disease expert said the virus might have come to Bangladesh from Italy.

He feared the situation might worsen if effective measures, including strict enforcement of lockdown, were not ensured right away.

"Many Bangladeshis returned from the European country between late February and the end of last month. We've seen that the virus started to spread here following their arrival. So there is a possibility that the strain of the virus here predominantly came from Italy," said Prof Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman of virology at the capital's Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

"If it turns out to be true, we may face a situation similar to that in Italy," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Till last night, Italy reported 168,941 confirmed cases with 22,170 deaths, according to worldometer.

Globally, scientists have found eight strains of the coronavirus. Different strains are dominating different regions, Prof Saif said.

He also pointed out that Bangladesh had reported no transmission of the coronavirus after many came from China, where the virus originated.

"There is no scientific evidence, it is just a scientific hunch," he said adding, "Although it is premature to comment without scientific base, we have to take initiatives considering certain issues."

At the daily briefing on the country's coronavirus situation yesterday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, "Nearly 80 percent of the Covid-19 patients don't require any treatment. But some people might need oxygen support and medicines."

He said the virus spread to 40 out of the 64 districts and that most of the infected ones contracted the disease from those from Dhaka and Narayanganj, which is now dubbed the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh.

On Thursday, the government declared that the entire country was at risk amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The minister said some 2,190 samples were tested in 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday.

With it, the total number of samples tested in 17 labs across the country reached 19,193. Overall, 9.5 percent of all samples have tested positive. It was 9.2 percent the previous day.

Of the infected cases, the minister said, some 500 received treatment at hospitals, which is 33 percent of the total cases. The rests were receiving treatment at home.

Nine people recovered in the 24 hours, taking the total number of recovery cases to 58, he said.

Expressing dissatisfaction at many still roaming outside, the minister said they were ignoring social distancing, which is crucial in containing the spread of the deadly virus. "This negligence is putting everyone in danger."

He also urged everyone to do corona test if they showed symptoms of the disease.

"If we try to stay indoors till April 25, we'll succeed [in fighting the virus]."

To win the fight, experts have, however, suggested that the government analyse how the ongoing lockdown has impacted curbing the virus' transmission since the number of deaths and infections is on the rise.

"There should be an evaluation of the effectiveness of the lockdown. Any steps taken by the authorities must have a goal. Otherwise, all measures may turn futile," Prof Saif Ullah said.


Providing additional information on the countrywide infection, Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said 21-30 was the worst affected age group.

About 21 percent of the total cases are aged between 21 and 30, while 19 percent between 31 and 40, and 15 percent between 41 and 50 years, she said.

Of all cases of infection, 46 percent were reported in Dhaka city, 20 percent in Narayanganj and the rest elsewhere.

Gazipur is another district with growing number of coronavirus cases, followed by Chattogram and Munshiganj, she said.

The highest number of cases in Dhaka has been reported in Mirpur area.

Out of the total patients in Dhaka, 11 percent were from Mirpur. Mohammadpur, Wari and Jatrabari areas had 4 percent patients each, Prof Flora said.

She also said among the total infected, 68 percent were taking treatment at their homes while 32 percent were admitted to different hospitals.

"Not all the 32 percent of the Covid-19 patients, who are receiving treatment at hospitals, required hospitalisation," she said, adding that many had to be admitted to hospitals in face of social pressure.

She emphasised that if a patient was in a stable state, it was best for the person and the health authorities that the individual was given treatment at his home in complete isolation.


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