AN INCREASE in the number of death with COVID-19-like symptoms, as New Age reported on Friday, points again to the issue of treatment refusal, inadequate testing facility and a delay in the delivery of test results. A study done by the Centre for Genocide Studies of the University of Dhaka shows that at least 1,500 people have died with symptoms typical of COVID-19. The study, published on Thursday, shows that 451 in Chattogram, 338 in Dhaka, 185 in Khulna, 170 in Barishal, 148 in Rajshahi, 83 in Sylhet, 70 in Rangpur and 55 in Mymensingh division died with COVID-19-like symptoms in March 8–June 27. The study says that the number of deaths with COVID-19-like symptoms decreased after April 18 and the trend continued until May 9, but began to increase again after May 23 and saw a further increase in June. In June only, about 860 people died with COVID-19-like symptoms. Public health experts fear that the number of unreported death with COVID-19-like symptoms could be much higher and most of such death happened because of treatment refusal and an inadequate testing facility.
Since the first reported cases of COVID-19 in Bangladesh on March 8, treatment refusal repeatedly made the headlines as most hospitals refused admission and treatment of patients with COVID-19-like symptoms. General hospitals are still reported to refuse treatment of patients who fail to show COVID-19-negative certification while hospitals designated for COVID-19 treatment refuse treatment until patients produce COVID-19-positive certification. The government has issued a number of directives and warnings to stop treatment refusal, but to no avail. Patients with breathing difficulty and fever, symptoms that are typical of many diseases, are still routinely turned away by hospitals. Patients of COVID-19 and others with a suspected contraction of the disease also suffer because of a shortage of testing facilities. Although testing facilities have been widened and more than 15,000 tests are done a day, hundreds are reported to wait their turn to be tested. People seeking tests are also reported to have held protests in recent times as they are largely refused treatment for other ailments unless they produce COVID-19-negative certificates. Moreover, a delay in the delivery of test results also contributes to the sufferings of treatment-seekers.
The government must, therefore, look into the issues of treatment refusal and testing facilities that are largely responsible for the death of people with COVID-19-like symptoms. The government and its agencies concerned must, at the same time, also verify all death with COVID-19-like symptoms to get a clear picture of the COVID-19 situation and to work on preventive plans accordingly. Treatment refusal, inadequate testing facilities and treatment mismanagement are unacceptable now when the nation is passing through the fifth month of the emergency.
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