THERE have yet again been a significantly high number of Covid cases and death recorded in 24 hours till Sunday morning, suggesting an alarming situation in the coming days. While the national positivity rate is reported at 11.03, the highest positivity rate of 61.83 per cent is reported in Chapainawabganj. Other frontier districts such as Rajshahi, Satkhira and Noakhali also had a sharp increase in cases. The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research and the Director General of Health Services have confirmed the community transmission of the delta variant. In IEDCR screening, 80 per cent of recent cases involve the delta variant, which has proved to be more contagious and could turn quickly fatal. It is, however, not clear what specific measures the authorities concerned have taken to head off the situation as Covid restrictions put into force in different phases since April 5 now exist only on paper. Despite the decision to enforce a strict lockdown in Chapainawabganj, a border district that has witnessed an increased number of delta variant infections, the positivity rate in the district is remarkably high. It appears that the government is aware of the situation yet reluctant to intervene with a stringent enforcement of health protocols.
Public health experts have, in this alarming context, recommended a strict oversight on the border, the quarantining of anyone suspected of having been infected with Covid-19 and the placement of areas with high infection rate on lockdown. While the government has imposed a temporary ban on travel to and from India through land ports, the step appears to have failed to stop community transmission in the absence of proper contact tracing. The withdrawal of the inter-district travel ban to allow transports to run to half the passenger capacity maintaining health rules appears to have prompted the spread of the virus from one district to another. In terms of institutional quarantine for people returning home from abroad, official action is often described as whimsical by passengers at international airports. Moreover, the on-arrival screening of passengers at land, sea and airports is ill managed. Immigration officials too have expressed concern about the Covid reports that passengers bring from India as they do not have any unified mechanism to crosscheck the certificates. The government has also failed miserably in securing vaccines as the mass vaccination programme has come to a halt within a month of its launch. In more than a year since the detection of Covid cases in Bangladesh, it appears that the government response is all talk and no action.
The government must, therefore, immediately enforce a strict lockdown in all frontier districts with higher positivity rates, but the decision must come with fully equipped Covid testing and quarantine facilities at all ports. It must also prioritise contact tracing and ensure that people coming from abroad comply with Covid prevention guidelines to stave off community transmission. The government must recognise that a mere issuance of restrictions with no enforcement will not help to avert the danger that could be lurking.
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