Experts struggle to determine coronavirus situation in Bangladesh

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:09, Sep 01,2020 | Updated: 15:40, Sep 01,2020


Bangladesh witnessed a slight decline in infection rate in the past three weeks, but the country’s COVID-19 situation remains unknown due to unavailability of epidemiological data.

In the past three weeks, the country’s coronavirus infection rate dropped from 21 per cent to 17 per cent, though the overall rate is still 20.19 per cent, for which Bangladesh claims the 8th spot on the list of countries with highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world.

As the infection rate declines slightly, the government officials, including the health minister, is now claiming that the country’s COVID-19 situation is under control.

Experts, however, said that the country was now still in the first wave of infections and the situation might linger if the government fails to implement the health guidelines of the World Health Organisation to control the epidemic.

Directorate General of Health Services additional director general Meerjady Sabrina Flora said that they could not determine the country’ situation in terms of ‘waves’ of infections.

‘What we can say is that our country’s infection rate is declining gradually after passing a few weeks with a static infection rate around 20-23 per cent,’ she said.

‘We did not see sudden surge or sudden fall of infections rate,’ said Meerjady, who is the immediate past director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.

She said that the country’s overall infection situation was now on a declining trend when people are leading an almost normal life without following the health guidelines.

‘Unlike other countries in the world, where experts are determining their situation in terms of a first or a second wave, we are not assessing our country’s situation using the criteria of “wave”,’ she said.

Noted virologist Nazrul Islam said, ‘We are not sure about where we are at now.’

He said that there was no proper assessment done by the DGHS, nor by any independent research organisations on the country’s COVID-19 situation.

‘DGHS’s crucial epidemiological data are absent, which is keeping researchers and people from  getting their heads around the situation,’ said Nazrul, a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

He said that the actual infection trend, testing pattern, sample collection methods, geographic and population-based sample collections and tests and case detection rates are miserably absent in the country.

‘Everything is going on in an unorganised manner. And we are grappling with data inconsistency and data unavailability,’ Nazrul pointed out.

World Health Organisation former regional advisor Muzaherul Huq said that the second wave of infections requires the end of the first wave.

‘Bangladesh is still in the first wave of infections and the country is yet to experience the peak,’ he said.

‘The infection rate is ranging between certain rates and is still too high compared to other countries,’ Muzaherul said, adding, ‘We cannot call it an epidemic curve when the infection rate is still 20.19 per cent.’

He said that the country’s COVID-19 situation could be termed ‘under control’ when the infection rate would drop to less than 10 per cent.

‘And if we fail to implement the WHO guidelines, shared with countries to control the situation, our COVID-19 situation will linger,’ he said.

Bangladesh so far tallied 4,281 COVID-19 deaths and 3,12,996 cases since March 8, the day the first COVID-19 cases were detected.

In the past two days, 75 patients died and 4,071 new cased detected. The country is now at the 26th week of COVID-19 infection.

In the past three weeks, the infection rate decreased slightly while the death rate increased. In the 22nd week, the rate of infection was 23.85 per cent and the death rate was 1.53 per cent.

Since the 23rd week, the rate of infections dropped: 21.08 per cent in 23rd week, 20.06 in 24th week, 17.39 per cent in 25th week and 16.69 per cent in the ongoing 26th week. The death rate in 23rd week was 1.34 per cent, which went up to 1.56 per cent in the 24th week, 1.83 per cent in the 25th week and 1.84 per cent in the ongoing 26th week.

DGHS on Monday said that the country’s overall rate of infections now stood at 20.19 per cent and the death rate stood at 1.53 per cent.

Monday’s infection rate was 17.46 per cent while it was 15.90 per cent was on Sunday.

DGHS additional director general Meerjady said that despite the declining trend of infections, the country’s situation might deteriorate further and the need for maintaining social distancing, using masks and using disinfectants is still crucial.

‘We could have been in a better situation if the people would have stayed at home,’ she said.

Bangladesh on Monday had 1,03,828 active cases.

But the number of hospitalised patients dropped significantly in recent months, despite deaths at homes.

On Monday, only 4,125 COVID-19 patients were taking treatment at hospitals across the country while about one lakh patients were staying home.

Since May 17, at least 619 COVID-19 patients died at their homes and 31 died on the way to hospitals, accounting for 15 per cent of the total COVID-19 patients dying outside hospitals.

Virologist Nazrul said that people lacked trust in the management of patients at hospitals, which was keeping them from seeking hospitalisation.

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