One more dies of COVID-19, six more infected in Bangladesh

Community transmission feared, govt denies

Manzur H Maswood and Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 00:19, Mar 24,2020 | Updated: 00:35, Mar 24,2020


A policeman requests the residents of Uttar Tolarbagh in Mirpur in the capital on Monday to stay inside the area that was locked down with a view to slowing down the spread of coronavirus. — Abdullah Apu

One more died of COVID-19 and six new novel coronavirus cases were detected in Bangladesh on Monday, raising the death toll to three and number of infected people to 33.

Among the 33 COVID-19 patients, 20 did not have any travel history abroad.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research said that 13 had travel history abroad and 20 were infected by other patients.

IEDCR, however, did not disclose details about how the 20 people got infected.

Experts said that COVID-19 already spread in communities, though the IEDCR denied the community transmission till Sunday and skipped the issue on Monday’s news briefing.

On Saturday, a man died of COVID-19 in the capital’s Tolarbagh area having no travel history — neither his family members nor he had travelled recently.

Another man died in the same neighborhood a day later with symptoms of COVID-19 and this second man and his family members also did not have any travel history.

Both the men were mosque-goers and mixed with people socially.

A doctor who treated the first man also got infected with COVID-19 and was hospitalised on Sunday.

Lockdown in Tolarbagh area was tightened further on Monday, a day after the second death from coronavirus infection was confirmed.

Mosque and most shops, except groceries and pharmacies, remained shut and public announcement system was used to instruct residents to stay at home.

Residents their informed that Dhaka North City Corporation used chlorine water to disinfect streets and buildings’ garage of Tolarbagh area of Mirpur.

DNCC chief health officer Brigadier General Mominur Rhaman told New Age that  they have started disinfection process in the risky Tolarbagh area.

Police were seen guarding at the main entry gate of the residential area and preventing outsiders from entering the area.

World Health Organisation said, ‘Community transmission is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories)’.

IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Flora said Sunday that they were trying to trace the cases in Tolarbagh.

She said that they were testing people in different communities having symptoms of pneumonia and found no evidence of COVID-19 among them.

But she said that only 40 people were tested so far from the communities where deaths occurred, which, according to experts, too small a number to draw a conclusion on community transmission.

Noted virologist Nazrul Islam said, ‘It is already evident that community transmission has occurred.’

‘Community transmission means infection in communities unknowingly and such incident is evident in the Tolarbagh incidents,’ he told New Age.

Nazrul, also former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said that the government resorted to a ‘bureaucratic trickery’ and was hiding the actual scenario.

‘They should admit that community transmission occurred and take measures to identify the potential spreaders — the infected persons,’ he said.

World Health Organisation former regional adviser Muzaherul Huq said that testing a small number of people would not be enough to determine whether community transmission occurred or not.

He said the current trends of infections and deaths of suspected COVID-19 patients proved that the community transmission had already occurred.

Muzaherul advised that the authority should decentralise the testing facilities from the IEDCR, which is still the sole agency for conducting tests on coronavirus infection cases.

He further advised elderly people to stay home as they are vulnerable to COVID-19.

Bangladesh on March 8 confirmed the first COVID-19 patients. So far three people died of the disease and all are elderly people.

As the IEDCR only tested a handful of people, many patients were being hospitalised and some even died with the symptoms of COVID-19 cases that remained unacknowledged by the authority, experts said.

Two people died on Saturday at Khulna Medical College Hospital with symptoms of COVID-19, confirmed the hospital director Manzur Morshed.

An elderly woman died in Sylhet with similar symptoms before she was even tested.

People in five houses in Moulvibazar, where the woman lived, were put in home quarantine. The woman returned from the UK three months ago.

The IEDCR, however, did not provide specific information about the patients, including the second person who died on Sunday night at Tolarbagh in the capital and the woman in Syhlet.

Mirpur division additional deputy commissioner Mahmuda Afroz cited IEDCR findings that the second man in Tolarbagh died of COVID-19, but no one from IEDCR commented on the death.

A 60-year-old man, who returned from Italy recently, died at a private hospital in Bhairab on Sunday night with COVID-19 symptoms, but he was not tested before his death, confirmed Kishoreganj civil surgeon Mohamad Mojibur Rahman.

IEDCR director Meerjady on Monday said in a virtual press conference that they have tested 620 people so far and 33 were confirmed having coronavirus infection.

She said with the death of another people, so far three people died of the new disease, but she did not disclose the details of the deceased, nor did she reveal when he died.

Meerjady disclosed that six more people were tested positive.

Besides, 51 suspected COVID-19 patients are in isolation.

Among the six new cases, three are males and others are females, aged between 20 and 70.

Among the six, two had travel history abroad, one in India and another in Bahrain.

She however did not disclose how the other four contacted the virus.

Meerjady further said that among the six, one was a doctor and two were nurses.

Among the infected persons, two-third is male. The infected people are aged between 2 to 70 years.

Dhaka city has the highest number of infected people with 15 in the capital, 10 in Madaripur, three in Narayanganj, two in Gaibandha and one each in Cumilla, Gazipur and Chuadanga.

Among the infected 33 persons, 13 had travel history abroad, with six in Italy, two in the USA, two in other European countries, and one each in Bahrain, Kuwait and India.

Bangladesh responded late to take measures against Covid-19 that already killed over 15,000 people and infected over 3 lakh others.

Bangladesh allowed international passengers, including those from the COVID-19 affected countries till date.

Since January 21, over 6.3 lakh people entered Bangladesh, creating scope of spreading the disease among mass people.

As the fear escalates over the spread of COVID-19, the government on Monday announced that all government and private offices in the country will remain closed between March 26 and April 4.

Army will be deployed from Tuesday and public transports would be operating on a limited scale during the time and people were asked not to move outside their homes without emergency.

The government on Thursday imposed lockdown in Shibchar upazila in Madaripur fearing community transmission.

Sadullapur upazila in Gaibandha was under lockdown since Sunday as two US expatriates, who mixed with people socially, tested positive.

A private hospital in Chattogram has closed its Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unit after a patient died from pneumonia on March 19.

Since Friday, the hospital authority shut down the ICU and HDU unit suspecting the spread of coronavirus.

The doctor who treated the patient has been sent in home quarantine as a precautionary measure, but the IEDCR did not confirm anything about the woman’s death.

As the fear of spreading the virus grows, hospitals and doctors across the country continued denying patients having symptoms of fever, sneezing, coughing and breathing difficulty.

Interns of Khulna Medical College Hospital continued their indefinite strike on Monday for the second day demanding personal safety gear, including specially designed suits, hand gloves, goggles, caps and N95 masks, to protect themselves from coronavirus infection.

Health minister Zahid Maleque said on Monday at a press conference at the secretariat that the personal protective gears for doctors were not that much needed in Bangladesh yet.

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