By Md. Kamruzzaman and SM Najmus Sakib
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Worries are mounting in Bangladesh over the rapid spread of coronavirus, with the country reporting record numbers of deaths and infections in the last few days.
On Monday, the South Asian country recorded its highest-ever single-day death toll from the virus with 83 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 9,822.
Another 7,201 people also tested positive in the said period, taking the total caseload to 691,957.
The first coronavirus case in the country was detected on March 8, 2020, and the first death 10 days later.
To stem the spread of the virus, the country imposed a two-month-long nationwide lockdown from late March last year but later eased restrictions in consideration of the economic hardships.
After nine months, the country reimposed a weeklong countrywide lockdown on April 5 that will be extended for one more week from April 14.
– Causes of alarming rise
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the president of the Bangladesh Doctors' Foundation said a newly detected South African variant of the coronavirus in Bangladesh is more dangerous and infectious.
“This new variant of the virus is more capable of spreading the disease, and we failed to follow a proper lockdown system to stem its spread,” said Dr. Md Shahed Rafi Pavel, chairman of the foundation.
Referring to the recent rapid spread of the South African variant of virus in Brazil, he said the characteristic of the South African variant is to spread very quickly.
A recent study conducted by the Dhaka-based international health research organization the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) has revealed that the South African variant is predominant in Bangladesh.
Between March 18 and 24 this year, scientists of the organization analyzed the genomic sequences of around 57 samples of COVID-19 positive patients, and of those, 46, or more than 80%, were found to be the same as the South African variant.
Pavel also pointed to the frequent violations of social distancing and COVID-19 health guidelines almost everywhere in the country, including markets, shopping malls, public transport, banks and other government and non-government offices for more than nine months since the easing of the two-month nationwide lockdown in June last year as one of the reasons for the alarming spread of the virus.
– Main opposition leader infected
The chairperson of the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Begum Khaleda Zia who was a former prime minister has tested positive for COVID-19, official and party sources said Sunday.
“COVID-19 samples of opposition leader Khaleda Zia were sent to ICDDR,B on Saturday and the test results were published on Sunday with a positive report, and it has already been updated on the government database,” Maidul Islam Prodhan, a public relations officer with the Health Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.
– Complete lockdown
“Commonly, the new virus also transmitted via living things so a complete lockdown is a must to stem its transmission,” Pavel said, adding that the government should at least impose a two-week-long complete lockdown.
He however emphasized that the government should enact a comprehensive plan for an effective lockdown.
“If the government fails to deliver basic foods and other necessary domestic items from door to door of the needy people, the lockdown could not be implemented properly.”
Pavel said the government has to launch nationwide relief work and implement special arrangements so that people can purchase basic necessities at cheaper rates.
Describing the current situation as dire, he said: “There are no vacant seats in hospitals and a long queue for every ICU bed.”
“So fulfilling people's minimum two-week-long successful lockdown is a must to interrupt the prevailing rapid transmission of the virus. Otherwise, the situation will get out of control,” he warned.
Earlier, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told the media that there would be a harder and total nationwide lockdown for another week starting from April 14 as the pandemic seems to go uncontrolled.
All government and private offices and public transportation will come under the lockdown and people will not be allowed to venture out except for emergency services, Quader said.
The country is also planning to suspend international flights during the coming lockdown, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
The government on Sunday, however, decided to allow factories to operate during the next lockdown, citing economic needs, especially in the country’s main exporting readymade garment industry.