THE second wave of Covid-19 appears to be more deadly because of the virus’s South African variant that has infected demographic groups largely unaffected in the first wave of the outbreak. The detection of the variant in a child patient, now in hospital, is worrying. Only about 3 per cent of 7.65 lakh Covid cases since March 2020 have been children aged below 10. But infection in children is slowly increasing. In April, when the infection rate was at its peak, infection in children was on the rise. Of the total 493 child Covid patients in Bangladesh, 33 were detected in April. Epidemiologists have sounded warning at the rising number of infection in hospital and blamed the new variant for the increase. In cases of children’s death from Covid, the epidemiologists also put malnutrition as a contributing factor. Reported infection in this group is alarming, but it is still possible for the government to flatten the curve if it immediately takes targeted preventive measures to attend to nutritional needs of the children and ensure guardians are well aware of the infection risks.
In April, a research by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research and the ICDDR,B found that more than 81 per cent of the cases were infected with the South African variant. This variant is said to be more fatal than the earlier variants as 20 per cent of the total death from Covid took place in Bangladesh this April. Yet, the government measure against its spread is rather flexible. On April 14, the government ordered strict restrictions, including closure of public and private offices and a ban on public transports. While offices remain closed and the ban on inter-district transports remain, shops and shopping malls have already been allowed to reopen. A series of photographs that New Age published in the past week shows people crowding the roads in breach of health protocols. There is little enforcement of the limited health safety measures that are in place to prevent any further spread of the virus. Contact tracing, a step that the World Health Organisation considered important in arresting the spread of the virus, stopped a while after the disease broke out.
The government must learn from the experiences of neighbouring India and immediately reconsider its lenient approaches to preventing the spread of Covid-19 because the deadly variant could, otherwise, prove to be costly for Bangladesh. It must ensure that health protocols in place are properly enforced, but it must do so with proper economic support for the working class. As Eid-ul-Fitr approaches, government must have a plan in place to strictly enforce the inter-district travel at Eid time.
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