The Directorate General of Health Services in a meeting with experts on Tuesday suggested that the government should impose a complete lockdown throughout the country to rein in the coronavirus situation as both COVID-19 infections and deaths are spiking again.
On the day, COVID-19 claimed 26 more lives while 1,719 more tested positive for the novel coronavirus across the country in the past 24-hour period ending at 8:00am Tuesday.
With the new numbers, the country’s coronavirus death toll has reached 8,597 and the number of cases 5,60,887, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
If a countrywide complete lockdown is not possible, the DGHS meeting advised the government to restrict public movement maintaining the ‘economic balance’ of the country.
DGHS director general ABM Khurshid Alam presided over the meeting.
The suggestions from the meeting were sent to the health ministry, officials confirmed.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Khurshid said that the decision about a total lockdown had not been taken yet but people should follow the health practices.
The meeting was held on the back of a sudden deterioration in the COVID-19 situation.
The meeting also advised the government against opening educational institutions.
It suggested restrictions on religious gatherings during the upcoming Ramadan and a shorter eid vacation.
The COVID-19 situation has taken a serious turn since the beginning of March after two months of relatively few case detections and deaths in the country.
The health agency in its daily update said that 20,748 samples were tested across the country in the past 24 hours and 8.29 per cent of them were found positive for COVID-19.
The country on Monday recorded 1,773 new COVID-19 cases and 9.48 per cent test positivity rate, both figures about a three-month high.
The daily deaths from the novel virus also jumped — to 26 — on the day, making it the highest daily tally in over two months, according to DGHS statistics.
Bangladesh on March 8, 2020 logged its first three COVID-19 cases and on March 18 its first death from the disease.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak in the past year, the government imposed a 66-day nationwide shutdown from March 25 to May 30 and a complete lockdown in places to contain the spread of the disease.
Initially the daily test positivity rate was low, but it started increasing from mid-May in the past year. Toward the end of that month, the test positivity rate went above 20 per cent, which continued until the third week of August.
Since then the test positivity rate had started decreasing, dropping below 3 per cent, but it has been increasing for quite some time and hovering around 9 per cent now.
The worsening COVID-19 situation has stirred the authorities, with the health minister ordering legal actions against those not following the mandatory mask-use rule.
‘We’ve ordered the authorities concerned to take legal measures, including mobile court operation and fining those who violate the mask-use rule,’ health minister Zahid Maleque told reporters at his office on Monday.
‘The district committees have been asked in writing to ensure that the people follow the health guidelines or they take legal actions against the violators if needed,’ he said, adding that social gatherings will be checked.
People ignoring health practices like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing have become commonplace in recent days after the country witnessed a comparatively better COVID-19 situation in January and February.
Public health experts said that people’s reluctance to follow the health practices was fuelled by the un-pragmatic and unscientific statements made by people in authority, resulting in deterioration in the COVID-19 situation.
‘The health minister and other people in high government positions in recent months spoke in such a way that Bangladesh succeeded in beating COVID-19 while many advanced countries failed,’ said noted virologist and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s former vice-chancellor Nazrul Islam.
‘Such un-pragmatic and unscientific remarks gave a wrong message to the nation, showing an unrealistic confidence over COVID-19,’ he said.
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