Bangladesh on Thursday recorded a whopping 74 deaths from COVID-19 as the number of cases and deaths have been spiralling up in the country for quite some time.
It was the highest number of COVID-19 deaths for a single day in Bangladesh after the coronavirus was reported in the country on March 8 last year.
Meanwhile, a joint study by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research and the ICDDR, B found that over 81 per cent of the recent cases in the country were infected with the highly contagious and fatal South African variant of the novel virus.
Experts said that the South African variant might be a reason behind the sudden deterioration of the COVID-19 situation in the country since the beginning of March this year.
The Directorate General of Health Services in its Thursday COVID-19 update said that four of the 74 people who succumbed to the disease in the past 24 hours till 8:00am Thursday died at home.
With the figure, the country has so far recorded 9,521 deaths from COVID-19.
In the past 24 hours, 6,854 more COVID-19 cases were detected, raising the total figure in the country to 6,66,132.
The health agency tested 33,193 samples and found 20.65 per cent of them positive for COVID-19 in the period.
Bangladesh has of late witnessed a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
In last January and February the country’s positivity rate dropped to 2.5–5 per cent.
Since the beginning of March, the daily cases, deaths and positivity rate have started to rise.
Last week over 38,000 coronavirus cases and 344 deaths were recorded in the country while the positivity rate went above 20 per cent.
The IEDCR and ICDDR, B study, released on Wednesday night, showed that the South African variant accounted for 81 per cent of the positive cases in Dhaka since the third week of March 2021.
The research team analysed genomic sequence data of 57 samples of the SARS COV-2 virus in COVID-19 positive patients between March 18 and 24.
Forty-six of those samples were found to be the South African variant of the virus.
This variant is said to have a greater transmissibility and harbours new genetic changes, which may impact clinical manifestation and vaccine effectiveness.
The ICDDR, B identified the first United Kingdom variant in Bangladesh on January 6, 2021 while the SARS-COV-2 sequence database at GISAID.ORG indicated that the UK variant was already circulating in the country in December 2020.
The infection by the UK variant gradually increased until the second week of March 2021, with the highest positivity rate of 52 per cent.
However, a dramatic change in the distribution of variants was observed when the South African variant appeared, said the study.
It became the most prevalent variant during the third week of March 2021 by replacing other variants.
Most remarkably, the South African variant accounted for 81 per cent of the variants in the fourth week of March 2021, according to the study.
Considering the recent COVID-19 surge, the researchers advised that everyone should follow the standard mitigation measures, including wearing masks properly, washing hands, maintaining social distancing and avoiding gatherings regardless of the previous infections, vaccination, or new variants.
They also urged all to abide by the restrictions announced by the government.
IEDCR principal scientific officer ASM Alamgir said that there might be a link between the presence of the South African variant and the recent deterioration in the country’s COVID-19 situation.
‘The study corroborates that the highly contagious and fatal South African variant is present in Bangladesh,’ he said.
But, he said, the study does not represent the national situation as the sample size was small.
Further genomic studies are underway to know about the situation, he disclosed.
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