Virus Hotspot in Border Areas: Districts grappling with Covid surge | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 12, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, June 12, 2021

Virus Hotspot in Border Areas: Districts grappling with Covid surge

Health experts say situation may turn into a full-blown crisis if strict preventive measures are not in place now

Amid a steady rise in virus infections and deaths across the country, the Covid crisis in the bordering districts has apparently deepened further.

As in the past few days, the hospitals in these districts grappled with an increasing number of patients yesterday. Most of the Covid units at the hospitals had already been at full capacity. Some of them kept turning away new patients.

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Health officials said many of the hospitals are ill-equipped and understaffed to tackle the crisis.

They said some hospitals still do not have adequate ICU beds, a central oxygen supply system -- essential to provide uninterrupted oxygen to critical patients -- and other Covid-related treatment facilities.

The officials believe the highly contagious Indian variant of the virus is responsible for the deterioration in the situation in these districts that share border with India.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, health experts warned that the Covid situation may turn into a full-blown crisis soon if strict measures are not taken right away.

They stressed the need for following the health safety rules strictly.

At the same time, the government should immediately increase the number of beds as well as manpower in Covid units and improve facilities in those hospitals to tackle the crisis, they said.

Infectious disease expert Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed said the situation would be dire in the coming days if it is not contained without any further delay.

"We always act late. If we had acted timely, the transmission rates would have been much lower in the districts along the border.

"The goal of our Covid lockdowns does not synchronise with the reality. It is a half-hearted lockdown. So, we have to behave in a way that can help achieve our desired goals," said Be-Nazir, former director (Disease Control) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

The warning came at a time when the country crossed the grim milestone of 13,000 confirmed deaths from Covid yesterday.

The DGHS reported 43 deaths in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday.

The number was 40 the previous day and 36 the day before.

Among the 43 deaths, the highest -- 15 -- was reported from Rajshahi which shares border with India.

Also, 2,454 new cases were recorded in the 24-hour period, taking the total number to 822,849, according to a DGHS press release.

The positivity rate was 13.24 percent yesterday. And the overall positivity rate stood at 13.39 percent, it said.

DISTRICTS ALONG BORDER IN PERIL

The Covid transmission has been showing an upward trend in Khulna, Satkhira, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Dinajpur, Naogaon and Natore over the past several days.

The situation in some of the districts is so bad that the Covid-19 units at the hospitals there have no more beds left for new patients. They have stopped admitting patients.

Take the example of Khulna.

In the district, the Covid-dedicated hospitals are overburdened. They suspended admission of new patients.

In Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH), 143 Covid patients were being treated till yesterday afternoon. The Covid unit at the hospital has 100 beds, including 61 general beds and 20 ICU beds, said officials there.

"The hospital authorities will resume new admission once beds become vacant," said Dr Suhash Ranjan Halder, residential medical officer of the KMCH.

The positivity rate in the district was 40.67 percent yesterday. Six people died in 24 hours till 8:00am, taking the death toll in the district to 701.

Meanwhile, the authorities have decided to turn the Khulna Sadar Hospital into a Covid-dedicated hospital to treat more patients.

The situation in Rajshahi is also alarming.

At least 15 people -- seven coronavirus patients and eight with Covid symptoms -- died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday, said hospital sources.

The current positive rate there was 38.34 percent while it was 50 percent in Naogaon, and 39.19 percent in Chapainawabganj, shows DGHS data.

Civil Surgeon of Rajshahi Md Quiume Talukder told The Daily Star that a number of measures, including lockdown, were enforced in the district to curb virus transmission.

As a preventive measure, Bangladesh Railway yesterday cancelled all rail operations from Rajshahi to other parts of the country for the next seven days.

"Operation of all trains from Rajshahi to different destinations will remain suspended from the midnight of June 11 to midnight of June 17," reads a notice issued by BR.

The situation is also not improving in Satkhira.

Despite being under a lockdown, the district had a positivity rate of 52.60 percent yesterday. This forced the local administration to extend the ongoing lockdown till June 17.

Hossain Safayat, civil surgeon of Satkhira, said the ongoing lockdown that started on June 5 was extended to June 17 as the coronavirus transmission was on the rise.

Authorities of Satkhira Medical College and Hospital said healthcare professionals were struggling to tackle the rush of patients.

"A total of 136 Covid patients are undergoing treatment in the hospital. We could not provide services properly due to an acute shortage of healthcare professionals," said Kudrat-e-Khuda, superintendent of the hospital.

In that 24 hours, one positive patient died while three others died with coronavirus symptoms there, he said

In the northern bordering district of Lalmonirhat, the positivity rate stood at 40 percent yesterday.

Health officials said out of 1,146 people tested positive, 17 died so far there.

Civil Surgeon Dr Nirmalendu Roy of Lalmonirhat said the infection rate in the district was on the rise and if it continued, the situation would be dire.

"The situation will slip out of our hands if people don't follow the health guidelines," he warned.

In Natore, the covid-19 positivity rate is 53.24 percent yesterday while on Thursday it was 33.7 percent. The positivity rate went up despite enforcing a lockdown.

The situation in Kushtia is a bit better, but not something to cheer about.

The positivity rate witnessed a decline -- from 35.09 percent on Thursday to 14.01 percent yesterday.

In Dinajpur, the current positivity rate was around 30 percent, which is a little higher than the Rangpur division's positivity rate of 26.04 percent.

Meanwhile, 15 more Covid beds were added to M Abdur Rahim Medical College Hospital in Dinajpur to treat patients.

At least 83 people were admitted to the hospital in the 24-hours. All were showing acute Covid symptoms. Of them, 46 were suspected Covid patients, said health officials.

Dr Abdul Kuddus, Civil Surgeon in Dinajpur, said they increased the number of beds as the infection rate went up.

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