2 more doctors, 2 others test positive for coronavirus

One physician victim of community transmission

Emran Hossain | Published: 11:26, Mar 27,2020 | Updated: 23:51, Mar 27,2020


Two of the four people tested positive for coronavirus in Bangladesh in the 24 hours since Thursday morning were physicians with the number of healthcare providers infected with COVID-19 climbing to five in last five days.

The information was revealed Friday morning by the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research in the capital.

The IEDCR said that one of the two physicians was infected while treating a COVID-19 patient and the other one was a victim of community transmission.

The four new infections have taken the tally of coronavirus cases to 48 since the first case was reported on March 8 and five of them have died so far, said the IEDCR.

Healthcare providers in Bangladesh appear to be among the most vulnerable to the highly contagious disease with the government publicly claiming that personal protective equipment was not essential for those treating COVID-19 patients.

The government had even issued at least two notices that were retracted later after sparking widespread controversies as these asked doctors to procure or make their own protective gear.

As COVID-19 continues to menace the world, the call for protecting healthcare workers has grown more than ever for the fight against the disease is likely to linger around for a while.

‘The biggest challenge we are faced with is providing PPE to our healthcare providers,’ said IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Flora at her daily press conference online on Friday.

She thanked different institutions that have already extended a helping hand in this regard and urged others to follow suit for the government could not alone tackle such a massive crisis.

The IEDCR has never given the number of healthcare providers in quarantine or isolation for supposedly coming into contact with infected people.

It rather gave on Friday an overall number of 50,735 people being in quarantine or in the process of being quarantined.

The IEDCR said that 47 people were in isolation for suspected COVID-19 infection.

And a total of 11 COVID-19 patients have recovered so far, it added.

Health workers are particularly vulnerable in the country because there is yet to be a system in place for screening suspected coronavirus cases separately.

Initially, there were reports about physicians refusing to treat patients with coronavirus infection symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulty.

Following the reports of treatment denial, the government had issued another  controversial notice, later withdrawn, of asking people to complain to law enforcers in case they were denied care.

Also, the IEDCR does not have an idea of how many physicians are currently dealing with coronavirus patients across Bangladesh.

Khulna Medical College Hospital sent 20 doctors and nurses in home quarantine for they came in contact with a man who died with coronavirus symptoms.

Health systems as advanced as those in the USA or other European countries have been stretched to their limits with dozens of their healthcare providers dying because of the virus.

In Italy, 37 physicians reportedly died of the disease.

The IEDCR has acknowledged limited-scale community transmission in the country though it has tested a relatively very small number of suspects for the highly contagious deadly virus.

The IEDCR has so far tested only 1,026 people since January 21 whereas South Korea has tested 15,000 a day on average since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

For the most part of the time since the testing of the COVID-19 patients began, the IEDCR was the only institution capable of carrying out the tests.

Of late, three more government institutions started testing COVID-19 patients. They are Institute of Public Health and Shishu Hospital in Dhaka and Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases in Chattogram.

In the first weeks of testing, the IEDCR only tested overseas returnees who showed severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The screening was later expanded as hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers and foreign travellers returned or entered Bangladesh in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Currently, the IEDCR accepts only a limited number of cases who were in contact with infected people.

Video clips of suspected COVID-19 patients crying their hearts out in panic failing to get tested for the infection despite repeated attempts to get help from the IEDCR went viral on social media in Bangladesh.

The IEDCR said that they received 40,008 COVID-19 test kits from China on Friday and the day before.

It said that 192 people were infected with the novel coronavirus in the 24 hours until Friday morning in South Asian countries.   

So far, 79 people have died in South Asian countries with 2,536 getting infected.

Over 24,000 people have died of the disease around the globe since it emerged in December in Wuhan, China, and infected over 5 lakh people in more than 170 countries.

The IEDCR director Meerjady said that none of the infected patients under treatment showed any signs of deterioration so far.

The IEDCR has advised people to stay at home as the whole country is virtually on lockdown until April 4 with the military called in and the streets in the capital and other cities lying deserted even in the middle of the day.

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