Community transmission of coronavirus found in Bangladesh: IEDCR

5th coronavirus death confirmed

Manzur H Maswood and Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 12:30, Mar 25,2020 | Updated: 00:28, Mar 26,2020


Bangladesh on Wednesday confirmed one more death from COVID-19, taking the death toll from the novel coronavirus to five.

The number of infected patients remained unchanged at 39 as no new cases were identified in the last 24 hours, said the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Meerjady Sabrina Flora.

Besides, 47 suspected COVID-19 patients were in isolation and 47 others were in institutional quarantine.

‘A sexagenarian man who was identified with COVID-19 on March 18, died today,’ she said.

He had co-morbidity like diabetes and hypertension and he contacted the virus from a foreign returnee, who had been infected earlier, she said.

In an online press conference, IEDCR director said that community transmission of novel coronavirus was occurring in the country.

‘We could not find out the sources of infections in two cases, in which both the infected died,’ said Meerjady.

‘We have kept the two locations isolated so that the virus could be prevented from spreading,’ she added.

According to the World Health Organisation definition, community transmission of the novel coronavirus ‘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)’.

The IEDCR, the government’s disease monitoring arm, earlier denied that community transmission of COVID-19 occurred saying that it could not be established yet while public health experts disagreed.

On the day, health minister Zahid Maleque said that the government had waged a  war against coronavirus and called upon all to stand united in the present situation. ‘It is good news for us that no new case was detected today,’ he said.

Meerjady, however, said that the ‘limited-scale community transmission in two

areas does not mean that the virus had already spread across the country.’

Bangladesh on March 8 confirmed for the first time that three people were infected with COVID-19 in the country.

The first COVID-19 death was reported in the country on March 18.

Following the second death from the disease of an elderly man in the capital’s Tolarbagh on March 21, the question of how he got infected remained unanswered as he and his family did not have any history of travel abroad.

On Tuesday, another woman died at a hospital in the capital. The septuagenarian woman had long been in the hospital and she and her family did not have any travel history abroad.

IEDCR on Wednesday said that no new case of COVID-19 was detected in the country in the past 24 hours.

So far, 39 people were identified with the novel coronavirus infection in the country.

A former director of the IEDCR, however, said that he was not convinced with the claim that no new cases were detected in a day.

‘It is epidemiologically unacceptable,’ he said, preferring anonymity.

‘One death [from COVID-19] means one thousand cases,’ he said, adding, at least five thousand people are not infected with the coronavirus in the country, but the IEDCR was failing to identify them.

The noted epidemiologist said that the novel coronavirus was just taking its hold in the country and the situation would deteriorate in the coming days.

‘It is not like that the COVID-19 is eliminated before setting its foot in the country,’ he said.

The IEDCR is still the sole agency to test COVID-19 as the government still could not decentralise the testing facilities.

Since January 21, the IEDCR tested merely 794 people, though the WHO suggests only ‘test, test, and test’ for the suspected COVID-19 patients.

Meerjady said Wednesday that the testing facilities would be decentralised in the next week.

She claimed that the reason behind the testing of small number of people was that ‘not so many suspected COVID-19 patients were found in the country.’

Hospitals and doctors across the country continued refusing patients having fever, cough, sneezing and breathing difficulty as they alleged that they were not provided with protective gear to treat patients with the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

Meerjady, however, claimed that they tested some pneumonia patients from different communities but no positive cases were found.

Bangladesh was late in responding to the new viral disease, which is believed to have started spreading since late December from a market in Wuhan, China, that sells wild animals.

With new countries getting affected as the days passed since December, the government in Bangladesh tried to assure people that the country was prepared to tackle the virus spread.

There are merely 5,500 hospital beds and 29 ICU were prepared for COVID-19 patients across the country.

The government could not ensure home quarantine of people who entered Bangladesh from different coronavirus-affected countries. About 6.5 lakh people entered Bangladesh since January 21 but around 30,000 were placed in home quarantine.

Bangladesh set to go on a 10-day public holiday from Thursday as the government is now stressing the need for reducing the social contacts while asking people to stay home.

Members of the armed forces were also deployed at the divisional and district levels on Tuesday to aid the civil administration to ensure home quarantine and social distancing and monitor the treatment facilities for COVID-19 suspects.

The government has shut down all modes of public transports including trains and buses and launches and has also suspended all domestic flights until further instruction. The road transports would remain closed till April 4 excluding goods-laden vehicles as the government has already announced 10 day public holiday from March 26 to fight the coronavirus situation.

The capital largely wore a deserted look while many areas across the country went under lockdown.

Local administrations placed a village of Ghior upazila in Manikganj under lockdown after a patient died with coronavirus-like symptoms there, reported New Age correspondent in the district.

The deceased — aged about 50 — was an accountant of a hospital in the capital, authorities said.

Ghior upazila nirbahi officer Irin Akhter told New Age that the person was in home quarantine for several days as he was suffering from cough and other cold-related infections and was admitted to Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital where he died on Tuesday.

The family buried him at their village on Wednesday. The entire village was placed under lockdown and the family members of the deceased were put in home quarantine from Wednesday morning, added Irin.

Earlier on March 19, the authorities placed Shibchar upazila in Madaripur district under lockdown as three COVID-19 patients were identified there.

Uttar Tolarbagh, a residential area of Mirpur in the capital, where at least two elderly residents died of coronavirus infection, was also put under lockdown on Saturday.

The local administration has restricted movements at Narsingdi and Lakshmipur districts, Jagannathpur upazila in Sunamganj, Ali Kadam, Lama and Naikhyangchhari upazilas in Bandarban district.

The local government division on Wednesday allocated a special fund of Tk 33 crore for the 12 city corporations, 328 municipalities, 492 upazila parishads for the on-going programmes aimed at mitigation the coronavirus epidemic and fighting the mosquito menace, reads a release issued by the local government and rural development ministry.

Atiqua Roma, founder of Jabo Bohudur, a private initiative for female motorbike driving training school, complained in a Facebook post that she was suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms for the last few days and contacted the IEDCR for tests, but, the authorities, however, did not respond to her request.

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