COVID-19 takes turn for worse again in Bangladesh

Fine to go up for no mask use

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 23:54, Nov 23,2020 | Updated: 00:02, Nov 24,2020


The COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh has started to take a serious turn again after experts feared the second wave of infections in the winter.

The country’s COVID-19 cases and positivity rate have marked sudden rises over the past few days on the advent of the winter with people largely ignoring the government instruction for the mandatory use of mask at public places.   

Relatively low infections were witnessed across the country in about three months until the second week of November after the novel coronavirus emerged in March and reached peaks in June-July.

‘It seems that the second wave of infections has started in our country,’ said virologist Nazrul Islam, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19.

‘The current trend shows that infections are rising as the winter is approaching,’ he said.

Health minister Zahid Maleque also briefed the cabinet on Monday to the effect that the country’s COVID-19 cases were increasing again and the situation in the capital was worsening.

‘The health minister has briefed the cabinet in its weekly meeting today that the COVID-19 situation is worsening in Dhaka as the number of COVID-19 patients is again increasing here compared to other parts,’ cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters after the meeting.

‘Hospital admissions with COVID-19 have increased in the capital. While beds remained vacant before, they are now being occupied,’ the cabinet secretary quoted the health minister as saying.

The cabinet secretary said that prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who chaired the meeting, once again ordered the agencies concerned to take strict measures to enforce the mandatory use of masks at all public places.

The mobile courts would  increase the amounts of fine for not wearing masks at public places, he said.    

The Directorate General of Health Services in its Monday update said that 2,419 new COVID-19 patients were detected in the 24 hours ending at 8:00am Monday.

The number of daily patients on the day was the highest in nearly three months, with the last highest figure recorded 82 days earlier on September 2 with 2,582 cases.

The test positivity rate in the past 24 hours was 15.06 per cent, which was the highest in 79 days.

The previous highest daily positivity rate, 15.18 per cent, was recorded on September 5.

With these figures, the country’s COVID-19 cases have risen to 4,49,760 and the number of deaths has hit 6,416. 

Monday’s figures came on the back of a rising trend of cases and positivity rate over the past two weeks.

The 37th week of infections, since the detection of the first cases on March 8, ending on Saturday had the highest weekly number of cases and positivity rate in 10 weeks, with 14,785 cases and 13.68 per cent positivity rate recorded.

In the past two days of the current 38th week, the average positivity rate stood at 14.97 per cent and the total number of cases at 4,479.

In a release on Sunday, the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 advised the government to ensure admission and treatment of COVID-19 patients at the government hospitals along with facilitating oxygen supply and high-flow nasal cannulas.

It also suggested that the government should raise awareness among people so that they wore masks.

Virologist Nazrul Islam, also a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, further said that the government must be strict in ensuring the mask use, adding that mobile court operations at public places should be carried out.

He said that though relatively more people in Dhaka were getting infected there was reluctance to wear masks here.

‘As the daily number of deaths had decreased, people wrongly started to assume that the severity of COVID-19 had decreased,’ Nazrul said.

Dhaka division has so far recorded far higher number of cases and deaths compared to the other parts of the country.

Dhaka division alone has recorded around three lakh cases with nearly 3,400 deaths while the other parts of the country together have recorded about 1.5 lakh cases and some 3,000 deaths.

Cabinet secretary Anwarul said that operations of mobile courts had been strengthened in Dhaka and other cities in a bid to check further spread of coronavirus infections.

‘The district administrations have been asked to continue campaigns for the use of masks beside the operation of the mobile courts and to observe the situation for another week,’ he said.

The amounts of fine would be increased after this week to compel people to use mask at public places, he added.

He said that mobile courts operated at 37 points in the capital on Sunday and fined several thousand people and distributed masks among the poor.

Each person was fined Tk500 to Tk1,000 for not wearing mask but the amount could be raised to Tk5,000 or more if the situation does not improve, he added.

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