The country is yet to reach the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak due to the government’s “unscientific” and “vague” strategy from the beginning, say experts.
“Reaching the peak means from where the infection rate will start falling. But we’re not seeing it even though two months have passed since the infection rate began to increase exponentially on April 5,” said Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the health and family welfare ministry.
Pointing out the missteps taken by the government, Dr Muzaherul Huq, former regional adviser for World Health Organisation’s South East Asia Region, said, “People were confused about whether it was a holiday or a lockdown. Due to the wrong message, they failed to act correctly. Such indecisions and a lack of coordination helped push up the infection rate.”
The government enforced a “general holiday” from March 26 and extended it to May 30. Coincidentally, the country has been seeing a rise in the number of patients from June 1. In the last 14 days, the DGHS officially reported 40,366 Covid-19 cases.
While describing the infection curve, Muzaherul said, “Take the example of a mountain. You’re trying to reach its peak but there is continuous snowfall. Once the snowfall stops, you reach the peak and start descending.”
In the case of Covid-19 outbreak, no proper measures had been taken to reach the peak, he said.
“That’s why we’re seeing that what was once limited to Dhaka and its neighbouring areas has now spread to the whole country.”
He urged the government to devise and adopt a scientific and precise strategy and then oversee its implementation.
Sporadic measures will not stop the spread of the infection, he added.
In this connection, Be-Nazir pointed out the instance of the capital’s Rajabazar area, which has been categorised as a “red zone” and locked down since June 9.
“Will such sporadic lockdowns bring any result?” he asked, suggesting that the government take a holistic approach instead to stem the spread of the virus.
About containment zones, he said public health experts should be given the helm to tackle the situation.
“We’ve seen the consequences of giving the administration and police the responsibility. They completely ignored public health issues,” he said, pointing to the example of hoisting red flags on houses with infected people.
“Such immature measures forced the infected people to hide information, leading to infections among others,” said Be-Nazir.
He suggested the formation of a national committee headed by health experts. There should be at least 500 sub-committees that will look after the zones, and local police, admin and representatives should be members of these committees headed by health officials.
Everything — from identifying Covid-19 cases and contact-tracing to ensuring daily necessities of city-dwellers and hospital services to critical patients — should be run by these sub-committees until a red zone turns into a green zone.
“The goal of the committees would be to give the best services to critical patients in hospitals,” he said.
He also suggested that the government not take any further half-hearted decisions or measures. “Otherwise, our infection rate will continue to rise and we’ll become the next USA, Brazil, Chile, Mexico or India.”
ZONING SYSTEM GUIDELINES
At the daily virtual briefing yesterday, Dr Nasima, additional director general (admin) of the DGHS, said the government has published guidelines for the zoning system.
According to the guidelines, compared to some wards, the infection rate per million people is at least 90 times higher in some particular areas in big cities.
The government will lock down Gazipur, Narsingdi and Narayanganj, Wari and Rajabazar on a trial basis, read the guidelines.
The zones will be identified in terms of the infection rate in the area over the previous 14 days. If 60 people per 10 lakh in an area in Dhaka are found infected it will be marked a red zone. Outside Dhaka, an area will be red-zoned if there are 10 infected people per million.
Any area in Dhaka where the number of patients would be between 3-59 per million in last 14 days of the trial would be yellow-zoned. Outside Dhaka, it would be 3-9 per million.
The status of a red zone will not be changed for three weeks even if the condition of the area is fit to be yellow-zoned.
Several local committees comprising police, health officials and social workers will be formed, according to the guidelines, but local representatives will lead the committees.
Another 3,140 people were found infected with coronavirus in 24 hours till yesterday afternoon, after 14,505 samples were tested in 60 labs across the country. With this, the total now stands at 87,520.
During the same period, 32 people died from Covid-19, said Dr Nasima.
The death toll now stands at 1,171.
During the same period, 903 Covid-19 patients have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 18,730 and recovery rate to 21.40 percent, the DGHS official added.
Of the dead, 27 were male and five female, she said, adding that 16 were from Dhaka, 11 from Chattogram, two from Sylhet, and one each from Barishal, Rangpur and Mymensingh divisions.
Of them, one was aged between 21 and 30, one between 31 and 40, six between 41 and 50, 10 between 51 and 60, nine between 61 and 70, two between 71 and 80 and the other three were between 81 and 90, she said, adding that 20 of them died at different hospitals while 11 died at their respective homes. One was declared dead while being taken to hospital.
A total of 712 people were put in isolation in those 24 hours, Dr Nasima said.