At least six more people died with symptoms similar to that of COVID-19 — one in Khulna, two in Barishal, one in Rajshahi, one in Manikganj and one in Lalmonirhat — on Sunday and Saturday night, though no tests were done to determine contagion before their deaths.
Three of the six patients were treated at isolation centres at hospitals in the districts and others were denied treatment, doctors and family sources said.
The deaths were reported at a time when the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research said that they did not find any new case in two consecutive days.
‘We have no new cases and no new deaths have been reported in the last two days,’ said IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrina Meerjady in an online news briefing on Sunday.
The deaths were reported amid concerns over low number of tests and the country’s unpreparedness to face the looming crisis.
Bangladesh tested merely 1,185 suspected COVID-19 patients since January 21, including 109 in the past 24 hours.
Till the beginning of this week, the IEDCR was the sole agency to test suspected COVID-19 patients where test seekers in long queue remained waiting due to limited capacity to collect samples.
This week, three other test facilities — two in Dhaka and one Chattogram — were installed.
Health minister Zahid Maleque, who took part in the video conference on Sunday, said that the test centres at other divisional cities would be installed within a short time.
Meanwhile, Khulna Medical College Hospital director Monzur Morshed told New Age that a man with symptoms of novel coronavirus died at the isolation unit of the hospital on Sunday morning.
The deceased was identified as Sultan Sheikh, 70, son of Abdul Gafur from Kalia of Narail.
‘The man was treated at the isolation unit as he had symptoms of COVID-19 but we could not confirm if he was positive or not as we still have no testing facilities,’ he said.
Sultan’s body was handed over to his family, the doctor added.
Earlier, two more people died at the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms and they were not tested either, Monzur said.
In Barishal, two people with similar symptoms died at the COVID-19 unit at Sher-e-Bangla Medical College on Sunday, said the hospital director Bakir Hossain.
Of the two deceased, one was a woman from Barishal city and the other an elderly man from Patuakhali.
The woman, who was in her forties, was not tested at first but the IEDCR collected the sample following her death, he said, adding that the Barishal division had no testing facility for such patients.
When the relatives of the patient brought her to the emergency unit at 11:45pm on Saturday, after hearing about the symptoms the patient was taken to the COVID-19 unit of the hospital where she died at 12:05am.
The relatives took the body home soon after her death.
The elderly person from Patuakhali, who was 65, died with COVID-19 symptoms at the same hospital on Sunday.
‘Family members of the deceased were placed under home quarantine,’ said Md Hemayet Uddin, additional deputy commissioner of Patuakhali.
Six patients with symptoms of coronavirus infection were admitted to SBMC since last night. Doctors said that the hospital lacked equipment to run tests.
In Rajshahi, a youth with symptoms of COVID-19 died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital on Saturday night, reported United News of Bangladesh.
The deceased was identified as Al Amin, 22, son of Moklesur Rahman, from village Alankar Dighi of Raninagar upazila in Naogaon.
His father Moklesur Rahman said Al Amin worked as a clothes shop assistant in Narayanganj. He returned home with severe cold, fever and asthma on Saturday morning.
As the villagers objected to his stay, he was taken to Naogaon Sadar Hospital and Adamdighi Upazila Health Complex in Bogura where the doctors refused to treat him.
Later, with the assistance of Raninagar upazila nirbahi officer Al Mamun, the patient was admitted to Raninagar Upazila Health Complex and was later shifted to Naogaon Sadar Hospital and finally to RMCH.
RMCH doctors declared him dead around 9:30pm, the father said.
RMCH deputy director Saiful Ferdous said Al Amin was admitted with symptoms of COVID-19 but he had also been suffering from meningitis.
In Lalmonirhat, a 49-year-old man named Azizul Islam died with symptoms of COVID-19 at his home in Aditmari upazila on Saturday night as he was allegedly denied treatment at nearby government hospitals.
Lalmonirhat civil surgeon Nirmulendu Roy said on Sunday that a team of the IEDCR was on the way to collect samples from the deceased.
Aditmari upazila nirbahi officer Monsur Ali said that 10 families in the neighbourhood of the deceased in the village Helypad was put in 14-day quarantine.
In Manikganj, a 26-year-old woman, Schuchitra Sarkar of the village Boroichara of Harirampur upazila, died with the symptoms of coronavirus after her arrival at Munnu Medical College Hospital on Sunday, prompting the administration to put 200 families under lockdown.
Harirampur upazila nirbahi officer Sabina Yasmin said that the samples of the deceased were sent to the IEDCR and the decision on whether the lockdown would continue depended on the test result.
Earlier on Friday, a man in Bogura died after showing symptoms of coronavirus infection. He was denied treatment and remained untested, but was buried maintaining the protocol.
Zahid Maleque said that the government procured over 3 lakh personal protective equipment for doctors and 5 lakh more were in the pipeline.
The DGHS data showed that there were 500 ICU beds at the government hospitals across the country and only 29 of them were allocated for COVID-19 patients.
Zahid Maleque said they directed hospitals outside the capital to allocate some of the ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Nazrul Islam said, ‘Testing an increased number of suspected patients is the key to preventing the spread of the highly contagious virus.’
Former World Health Organisation regional adviser Muzaherul Huq said that the government should increase the capacity to test more people and isolate them if found positive for coronavirus.
The government lacks preparation for a possible catastrophic situation, he said. ‘Why have the people been allowed to go home after they returned from abroad,’ he asked.
He also criticised the government’s nod to mass exodus of people to the villages from the capital, which he believed exposed people to the risk of the infection.
The government took little preparation for emergency response to the patients in the villages across the country, Muzaherul said.
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