Medical &Health

Covid-19 in Bangladesh: Experts urge caution as third wave looms

Although the Covid infection rate continues to fall signalling the control of the second wave in Bangladesh, experts think there is no room for complacency as they fear the third wave of the virus may hit the country anytime.

They said the ongoing cluster transmission in different areas, lowering of guard by the government, public apathy to wear masks and health safety rules, low pace in vaccination and the reopening of educational institutions can be the main reasons behind the possible third wave of the coronavirus.

As India may also witness the third wave of the pandemic in October, the analysts say it may have an impact on Bangladesh as a close neighbourning country.

They, however, said Bangladesh can avoid the Covid third wave by intensifying virus control measures, especially in the areas where the infection rate is still high, encouraging people to maintain health safety rules, and wear masks and strengthening the vaccination drive.

Covid-19 in Bangladesh: Experts urge caution as third wave looms

According to data provided by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the Covid infection rate came down to 9.82 percent on September 8 from 29.97 percent on August 1, but it is still over 15-20 percent in many districts, including Faridpur, Gazipur, Munshiganj, Jhenidah, Kushtia and Khagrachari.

When may the third wave hit?

Though most health experts feel the third wave is inevitable, they are divided over the exact timing of its arrival. While some experts think that the third wave will arrive by October, other experts say it may take more time if a Delta-like variant does not emerge soon.

Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, a member of the Bangladesh Como Modelling group, said the current wave of the virus may come almost under control by September, but it is likely to increase again next month.

“Our projection is that the third wave of the virus may hit the country by October,” he said.

Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said if the virus does not weaken and the government fails to keep the protective measures functional, Bangladesh may see the third wave at the end of October.

Mushtuq Husain, adviser to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), however, said, “The virus infection may surge again, but we’re not still clear about when exactly it will happen.”

He also said it is certain that the coronavirus will not be eliminated until it comes under control all over the world. “So, we’ve to always remain ready to face the surge in infection of the virus. There’s no room for complacency over the current falling trend of the virus infection.”

DGHS spokesman Dr Robed Amin said it is very difficult to make any prediction about the coronavirus because it behaves in different ways in different situations. “So, no one can say definitively when the virus may surge again unless a new deadly variant emerges. But we have to strictly follow the hygiene rules. Otherwise, the danger can come at any time.”

He said the DGHS is closely monitoring the situation in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world, including India. “If the virus cases spike again, we’ll take proper action accordingly.”

Both Faisel and Lenin said the third wave will not be a strong one if no new variant comes by the time.

Covid-19 in Bangladesh: Experts urge caution as third wave looms

Cluster transmission

Prof Mushtuq said though the overall infection rate has declined, there are many areas where it is still over 15 percent of what is called cluster transmission.

“If we can control this cluster transmission, the third wave is unlikely to come anytime soon. But if we fail to do so, we may experience the third wave in the near future.”

Echoing Mushtuq, Dr Faisel said the virus can spread to other areas from where the cluster transmission is going on in absence of proper preventive measures as around 95 percent of people in the country still remain unvaccinated.

As the virus infection is dipping, he also said people are becoming reckless about health safety rules and masking while there is a slack attitude among the authorities concerned regarding the control measures.

The expert said the civil surgeons in the districts where the infection rate is high should work out effective measures to contain it. “They’ve to focus on quick identification of patients and isolation of people who come close to the positive cases.”

Children may be at risk

Dr Lenin said millions of children will return to classrooms from September 12 at a time when Delta variant is taking its toll on kids in different countries, including the USA.

“We can also face a similar problem after reopening of the schools if we fail to ensure rigid health protocols in place. We have to remain alert about it,” he said.

Dr Faisel said most young and elderly people gained immunity by getting affected by the virus or by receiving vaccines. But the infection was very low among the children as they have long been staying at home. “So, now the students are likely to be at the risk of virus infection with reopening of the schools.”

He said no one, including the students and teachers, should be allowed to enter educational institutions without masks.

How to avoid third wave

Prof Muzaherul Huq, a former adviser to WHO South-East Asia region, said the government should focus on contract tracing and increasing rapid antigen tests to quickly identify the infected persons in the areas where cluster transmission is taking place and isolate them from others.

“We’ve to intensify the control measures to address the cluster transmission locally so that the virus can’t spread to other areas from different pockets. Lockdowns can be enforced in those pockets,” he said.

The expert said the government should strictly continue screening the incoming passengers through the airports and the land ports to check the arrival of any new variant from abroad.

Besides, the expert said, the government will have to increase the vaccination drive and ensure cent percent masking and health safety rules. “If we can do this properly, we won’t face the third wave any time soon.”

Source: United News of Bangladesh