Major Covid hospitals in four of the eight bordering districts, witnessing a quick spread of the Covid outbreak largely triggered by the Indian variant of coronavirus, are either already full or had to raise the number of their beds to cope with the worsening situation.
Hospitals in the other four districts are about three-fourths full amid a steady arrival of patients as the positivity rate in the eight districts in two divisions — Rajshahi and Khulna — reached 20 to 40 per cent on average since Eid.
Four of the districts — Chapainawabganj, Natore, Naogaon and Kushtia — are turning away severe cases as they can only treat moderate cases in the absence of intensive care facilities and central oxygen supply systems.
Overall, the two divisions — home to about four crore people — have only 69 ICU beds, which are about to be fully occupied, and the hospitals in the divisions except for a handful few completely rely on oxygen supplied in cylinders.
‘We have been holding it together until now though all our admitted patients require oxygen support to breathe,’ Rajshahi Medical College Hospital deputy director Saiful Ferdous told New Age on Tuesday.
The latest spike in Covid cases forced the RMCH authorities to increase the number of their beds for Covid patients to 232 from 200. As many as 216 beds have already been occupied with patients needing oxygen supply, he said.
Only two of the 18 ICU beds for Covid patients are vacant at the RMCH that deals with majority of severe Covid patients in Rajshahi division, which reported its second highest daily test positivity rate of 43 per cent after testing 465 samples as of Tuesday morning.
Exactly 90 per cent of the ICU beds are filled in the Rajshahi division.
‘I would say that we are in a static condition — neither bad nor good,’ said Rajshahi divisional commissioner Habibul Ahsan Talukder, adding that they have never seen Covid infections getting as bad as now.
The district hospital of Chapainawabganj has all of its 18 Covid beds occupied with only 30 cylinders to support them and two ambulances tor transport Covid patients.
Chapainawabganj is by far the worst Covid-hit area that has been under stricter restrictions for two weeks in a row as the positivity rate in the district has exceeded 50 per cent several times and once even went above 70 per cent.
Poritosh Kumer Roy, assistant director at Natore district hospital, said that they had to add a bed to the 31-bed Covid ward at the hospital on Tuesday.
‘We are ready with an additional supply of mattresses to accommodate more patients and almost all admitted patients need oxygen supply,’ said Poritosh, adding that they have 170 oxygen cylinders.
The hospitals relying on oxygen cylinders can only use half of their available cylinders as the other half have to be refilled at faraway places, often at distant divisional cities.
The Naogaon civil surgeon office said that they had only nine Covid patients in their 30-bed Covid ward but the positivity rate in the district jumped on Monday creating the possibility of the beds rapidly filling up.
‘The positivity rate [on Monday] was about 35 per cent, a very high rate considering earlier rates,’ said Naogaon civil surgeon ABM Abu Hanif.
Khulna divisional health director Rasheda Sultana said that until Tuesday the Khulna district hospital had 77 patients admitted to its 120-bed Covid ward while 55 patients were admitted to the 80-bed Covid ward in Jashore, 34 patients to the 50-bed Covid ward in Kushtia and 31 patients to the 80-bed Covid ward in Satkhira.
The district authorities in Jashore doubled their Covid beds to 80 on May 22, said Jashore residential medical officer Arif Ahmed.
‘Had the number of Covid beds not been increased we would have been in trouble,’ said Arif.
Local health workers in the divisions are generally advising Covid patients not to seek hospital admission until their conditions are critical.
The Directorate General of Health Services on Sunday advised lockdown for the seven bordering districts after putting Chapainawabganj under stricter restrictions on May 26.
Still the authorities are hesitant about putting the districts on lockdown even after the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research has warned that an increased transmission could mean turning the virus even stronger.
The Indian coronavirus variant has turned that country into a global Covid hotspot this year and Vietnam has already reported a new variant, a mixture of the Indian and UK variants, very recently.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh logged 41 Covid deaths and 1,765 new cases in the 24-hour reporting period till 8:00am Tuesday.
A total of 18,250 samples were tested during the period, said the daily health update of the Directorate General of Health Services, adding that the positivity rate was 9.67 per cent.
Twenty-six of the newly deceased were men while the rest were women, said the DGHS.
Twenty-eight of the deaths occurred in government hospitals, 10 in private hospitals and three at home, according to the update.
Division-wise, the highest 15 deaths were reported from Dhaka, followed by Chattogram with 11 deaths, Rajshahi with six, Khulna with four, Sylhet with three and Barishal with two.
By age, 24 of the deceased were above 60 years while 10 were between 51 years and 60 years, four between 41 years and 50 years, two between 31 years and 40 years and one below 10 years, said the update.
A total of 4,77,809 samples were tested in May, which was a little more than half of the number of tests done in April. A total of 41,408 new infections were confirmed in the month.
A total 1,169 people died in May.
The New Age correspondent in Jashore reported that Jashore University of Science and Technology found the Indian coronavirus variant in eight of the 36 Covid patient’s samples tested on May 30.
None of the eight Covid patients has record of travelling to India.
JUST has confirmed 15 cases of Indian variant so far.
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