Abdur Rahman Jahangir & M Jahangir Alam - UNB Staff Writers
Update- November 10, 2020, 12:46 PM
Amid the growing worry over a possible deterioration in Covid-19 situation during the winter, the coronavirus infection rate has marked a rise over the last one week as the temperature dropped a bit.
Public health experts think the situation has started getting worse mainly due to the reluctance of people to abide by health safety rules, wear masks and the government’s ‘relaxed attitude’ towards controlling the virus transmission.
They said the spike in corona cases is a wake-up call for the government to take necessary preventive measures and bulwarks to contain a fresh corona outbreak and increase in fatality rate in the days to come when the mercury will dip further.
According to statistics received from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), over 4,000 people were infected with coronavirus while around 50 died on average every day during the peak of the corona outbreak in May and June months. The positivity rate --an indicator of the prevalence of the disease –was 24-25 percent at that time.
But from the last week of September the infection rate began subsiding a bit. At one stage, the infection rate came down to 10 percent in October, but now it has again started growing.
On October 31, 1,320 new infections from coronavirus were recorded in the country with 11.45 percent positivity rate.
At least 1,568 cases were recorded on November 1 with 12.50 percent positivity rate while 1,736 fresh cases on November 2 with 13.47 percent positivity rate, 1,659 cases on November 3 with 11.80 percent positivity rate, 1,517 cases on November 4 with 10.90 percent positivity rate, 1,891 cases on November 5 with 12.10 percent positivity rate, 1,469 cases on Nov 6 with 10.86 percent positivity rate and 1,289 cases on Nov 7 with 11.29 percent positivity rate.
Bazlur Rashid, a meteorologist at Bangladesh Meteorology Department, said the temperature in the country fell over the last week thanks to northwesterly wind caused by rain at the end of October.
He said the minimum temperature was recorded in the northern region, including Panchagarh, Gaibandha, Pabna and Rajshahi, between 14 to 15 degrees on Friday while it was 11.5 degrees at Srimangal and 18 degrees in Dhaka.
“When the temperature comes down to below 15 degrees, we call it cold weather. So, you can say the winter has already set in, but the temperature will go up within a few days and it may fall again during the last week of this month,” Bazlur observed.
He said the winter may begin in full swing in mid-December and several cold waves may hit the country at that time. Usually, January is the coldest month in Bangladesh, and the chilly weather may continue until mid-February.
Causes behind corona spike
Talking to UNB, former World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Advisor Muzaherul Huq said the coronavirus cases are increasing again mainly because of the government’s apathy to control the infection and people’s indifference to maintain health safety rules and wear masks.
He thinks the drop in temperature is not the main reason behind the further increase in virus cases. “If there’s no effective preventive measure, this virus can spread and what is happening in our country now.”
The health expert, however, warned that the fatality of the virus will surely increase during the cold weather as people are susceptible to many cold-related diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma. “If anyone having such a disease is infected with corona, it’ll be difficult to save his life. So, the mortality rate can go up.”
He said the government should encourage people to strictly follow the health safety rules, like wearing masks, frequently washing hands with soaps, using sanitizer, maintaining social distancing, avoiding public gathering and staying in quarantine after coming close to any infected people.
“If people don’t comply with the health safety guidelines, the government must enforce the law to force them to do so. Otherwise, the situation will continue to deteriorate,” Dr Muzaher warned.
Besides, he said people coming from abroad must be screened at the airports and ports and keep them isolated. “We should do it strictly this time to prevent imported cases.”
Dr Muzaher said the country is not going to see the second wave soon as the first wave is still going on. “There’s no reason to think the corona cases marked a rise due to the second wave since our first wave is not controlled.”
Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said Bangladesh has entered a long cycle of corona transmission due to the “government’s failure” to control the first wave of corona outbreak. “We’re still experiencing the first wave of coronavirus.”
He said many other countries like Iran, the USA, the UK and Brazil are also facing the same problem with the arrival of winter as they failed to contain the first wave.
“Health safety rules, isolation, adequate test, contract tracing, quarantine and enforcement of law are the ways to contain the virus transmission. But we’ve miserably failed to do that,” the expert said.
According to him, people here are a bit lucky as the death rate is very low compared to the infection rate. “But the fatality rate may go up during the winter due to the prevalence of other viruses and flues. So, we should intensify our efforts to control the virus.”
Get hospitals ready
President of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad Dr Iqbal Arsenal said many international experts believe corona has a correlation with winter and the situation can get worse during the cold weather.
As the corona cases and death rate may increase in the days to come, he said the government should equip all the hospitals, including the upazila health complexes, with necessary equipment, including sufficient oxygen facilities, to provide the infected people with proper healthcare services.
“Every upazila hospital has an isolation centre, but lacks necessary equipment, medicines, and oxygen supply, safety gears, and high-flow nasal cannula. Besides, ICU beds and oxygen plants should be installed at the district hospitals,” Iqbal viewed.
He said the nation had to pay a heavy price in the past for lack of logistic support. “I urge the government not to repeat the same mistake this time. The government should keep an adequate number of safety gears in its stock for health workers to tackle any alarming situation.”