Actions, not words, needed, say experts

Health DG’s comment draws flak

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:16, Jun 19,2020 | Updated: 16:30, Jun 19,2020


The comment of the country’s health boss on Thursday that the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh could linger for another two to three years drew flak from virologists and public health experts.

They expressed frustration over the comment made by Abul Kalam Azad, director general, Directorate General of Health Services, saying that the inaction from the government could turn Bangladesh into a dead land.

During the daily online COVID-19 bulletin, Azad, who has recovered from the novel coronavirus infection recently, said, ‘The global experience and expert opinions suggest that the coronavirus situation will not come to an end in one, two or three months.’

‘It may linger for two to three years and even more, although the severity of infections might decrease,’ he said.

The health chief further said that the rate of infections would decrease after a few days in the country, but it might not materialise so if the number of infections is considered.

‘Many hidden and mild cases will be identified after increasing the number of tests,’ he argued.

Noted virologist Nazrul Islam angrily reacted to the comment of Azad.

‘How could a health boss speak like that? If we don’t act, the coronavirus may stay here for 10 years,’ he said.

Nazrul, also a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said that the DGHS and its apparatus were miserably failing to take effective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections.

‘We are testing every day and finding thousands of people positive but they are neither being isolated, nor their contacts are  traced out nor quarantined, leaving them vulnerable, leaving them to spread the infection and leaving the whole nation at risk,’ he said.

‘It’s meaningless to update the nation about how many people got infected, rather they have to act to prevent the spread of the coronavirus ,’ he said.

‘It will not only linger for three years, but for a decade, if we still don’t take these things into consideration,’ Nazrul said.

He observed that the sudden increase in the rate of infections to 22 to 23 per cent in the past three days was the outcome of ineffective enforcement of zone-wise lockdown.

The rate of infections was between 20–21 per cent in the past three consecutive weeks, but went up in the last three days, according to the DGHS records.

Public health expert and former president of Bangladesh Medical Association, Rashid-e-Mahbub also said that the infected people in Bangladesh were not being isolated and their contacts were not being quarantined, leaving them to spread the contagious disease to others.

‘The rate of infections could be contained if the isolation of patients and quarantine of their contacts could be done properly,’ he said.

Rashid said that the coronavirus situation may linger until any vaccine or drug was developed, but it was not expected that the DGHS DG would make such comment.

‘We’ve to take action, or the virus will remain for many years,’ he said.

Azad said during the bulletin that Bangladesh being a populous country and the coronavirus being a highly contagious virus the prevention of its spread could be tough if people do not become cautious and maintain hygiene.

Bangladesh so far identified 1,02,292 Covid-19 cases and registered 1,343 deaths from the virus. The country passed 103 days on Thursday since the first identification of three cases of novel virus on March 8.

The government lifted the restriction on the public life on May 31 and is now experimenting on lockdown after zoning different areas as red, yellow and green, in regards to concentration of COVID-19 cases.

Azad said that halt to economic activities would create a socio-economic situation when malnutrition, diseases and deaths would occur.

‘That is why the government is working to make a balance between the life and livelihood,’ he said.

Calling to keep faith in prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the top health official said that a long-term capacity building was going on (to control Covid-19).

As part of the work, he said that the COVID-19 testing will be expanded to government and private facilities across the country.

He said the RT-PCR tests would be expanded to government facilities in districts and upazilas, easy testing methods would be adopted, ICU facilities were being expanded to district hospitals, central oxygen lines were expanded, high-flow nasal oxygen canola and oxygen concentrators were being installed at each district-level hospital.

Besides, he said, measures are being taken so that all government and private hospitals can provide treatment to all COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients while fixing the charges for treatment at private hospitals and their monitoring will be done.

‘Everything is being done with the limited capacity and measuring practicality,’ Azad said.

He asked the doctors not to delay in providing treatment to any suspected COVID-19 patients.

‘Please don’t wait for tests to be done before providing treatment,’ he said.

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