The government has ordered the authorities concerned to take precautions against the second wave of COVID-19 infections feared to begin in October-November.
The directive comes at a time when the health guidelines to contain the coronavirus spread are largely ignored across the country.
The government has already reopened the public transports, offices, businesses and tourism industry despite an appalling COVID-19 situation in the country.
Bangladesh has already witnessed 3.5 lakh coronavirus cases and nearly 5,000 deaths from the infection, first detected here on March 8.
Experts feared that the infections might increase in the second wave if people continued to ignore the health rules that make mandatory use of masks and physical distancing at public places and work stations.
Apparently the COVID-19 positivity rate has slightly dropped, but the overall situation has not improved much, according to official data.
The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID -19 has, meanwhile, advised the government to make all preparations to prevent and control the second wave of the coronavirus infection.
The committee came up with the advice during its 20th meeting held online on Sunday.
In response to experts’ fear, prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the weekly cabinet meeting on Monday asked the ministries concerned to take all precautions to face the second wave of the infection.
‘The PM has asked the relevant ministries for more awareness campaigns to ensure use of masks across the country and make all preparations as the country may see another wave of the infection at the advent of the winter,’ cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told a press briefing at the Secretariat after the cabinet meeting.
He said that the government was worried about the COVID-19 situation during the winter as asthma and pneumonia patients, more vulnerable to coronavirus infection, usually appeared more during the time.
‘An inter-ministerial meeting would be held tomorrow [Tuesday] at the Cabinet Division for taking preparations against the possible second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in October-November,’ said the cabinet secretary.
Sheikh Hasina presided over the virtual weekly cabinet meeting from her residence Ganabhaban while her cabinet colleagues joined it from the Secretariat.
Noted virologist Nazrul Islam said that the government needed to reassess the situation and take action accordingly soon about the second wave.
‘Or else, we have to suffer,’ he said.
He said that there was apathy among people to follow health rules like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and avoiding public movement in the pandemic raising risks of more infections.
‘Even many officials in top positions seem to be ignoring the health guidelines, creating a sense of apathy about the practice among the common people,’ said Nazrul, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on the COVID-19.
He also criticised the government for stopping the daily live briefing on the COVID-19 situation by the Directorate General of Health Services.
‘People need sensitisation and awareness. The government needs to take preparation for the second wave, engaging people with the process,’ he said.
The NTAC observed that the second wave of infection was seen in many countries and the infection rate was enormous in bordering India.
It said that contact with different countries resumed or would resume and also there was a kind of carelessness seen among people about following the health regulations.
‘In this context comes the risk of second wave infection in our country,’ NTAC chairman professor Mohammad Shahidullah said in a press statement.
Besides preventing the second wave, the committee has advised the government to take full preparations for ensuring the health services.
‘It was advised to stay alert for quick detection of the second wave infections,’ said the statement.
The committee said that the preparation for reopening the dedicated COVID-19 hospitals should be in place as many such hospitals were already made non-COVID ones.
The country’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is now over 19 per cent but the rate dropped to 12 per cent in recent days.
The rate increased over 13 per cent in the past two days of the ongoing 29th week of coronavirus infection.
The death rate now ranges between 1.8 per cent and above 2 per cent, which was a little above 1 per cent a few weeks ago.
The advisory committee said on Sunday that the rate was declining but it was not yet a ‘comfortable rate’.
Bangladesh relaxed all COVID-19 restrictions and reopened offices and businesses excepting educational institutions on May 31 after a complete shutdown for over two months despite experts’ concerns.
On Monday, the case fatality rate increased as 40 more died of COVID-19 raising the toll to 4,979 with the detection of 1,705 new cases in the past 24 hours ending 8:00am.
The case positivity rate was 13.06 per cent in the 24 hours while 13.32 per cent in the previous day of the ongoing week, according to the DGHS.
The country has so far tallied 3,50,621 coronavirus cases .
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