Medical &Health

60 more die in Bangladesh as Covid continues its onslaught

The death toll from Covid-19 hit 11,510 in Bangladesh on Saturday as the country logged 60 more fatalities in 24 hours until Saturday morning, as all efforts to stop the pandemic have apparently gone in vain.

However, the country reported new cases of 1,452 during the 24-hour period ending at 8am, which was said to the lowest daily count in 48 days.

The overall infection tally reached 760,584 with the new cases and the positivity rate fell to 9.61% from Friday's 10.34%. But the death rate remained unchanged at 1.51%, said the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

On March 14, Bangladesh reported 1,159 cases in 24 hours. The country's infection rate came down below 10% on Thursday after over a month, as it reported a 7.68% infection rate on March 17 and it rose to 10.45% the following day. Since then, the infection rate began an upward march.

Bangladesh on Friday reported its single-day Covid-19 death toll of 57, the lowest in 25 days.

According to the DGHS, 684,671 infected people have recovered from the disease so far and 3,245 of them in the past 24 hours.

The country conducted 15,117 new tests over the same period, which was 21,046 on Friday.

Bangladesh has so far carried out 548,4821 nationwide tests since reporting its first coronavirus cases on March 8 last year the first death on the 18th of that month.

The country recorded 52 coronavirus-related deaths on April 5, 78 on April 27, and 77 on April 28, showing a downtrend. It witnessed over 100 deaths during April 16-19 and on April 25.

April remains cruel

April still remains to be the cruel month for Bangladesh since the outbreak of the pandemic last year as 147,837 cases of infections and over 2,404 deaths were officially registered.

As the virus continues its onslaught, 568 people lost their lives in January this year, 281 in February and 638 in March.

Dhaka division remains the worst-hit region, registering most of the deaths – 6,714 or 58.33%.

Twenty-eight of the 60 deaths reported today are from Dhaka division and 19 from Chattogram division.

Lockdown to continue until May 5

Given the surge in new infections and deaths from the virus, the government enforced a nationwide lockdown in early April. Having failed to contain the current surge, the government imposed a strict lockdown on April 11 and then extended it up to April 28.

On Wednesday, the government issued a circular extending the lockdown up to May 5, as there is no improvement in a spike in Covid-19 infections.

60 more die in Bangladesh as Covid continues its onslaught

However, shops and shopping malls will remain open from 10am to 8pm during the period, the announcement said.

Vaccination drive

Bangladesh launched its vaccination drive on February 7 with Oxford-AstraZeneca doses it purchased from India's Serum Institute.

The country signed an agreement with Serum for 30 million doses. But a record number of cases in India has made the delivery of the doses uncertain. The administering of the first dose remained suspended in Bangladesh since Monday.

India has tried to ward off its Covid crisis by ramping up its production of vaccines and banning their export, cutting off supplies to neighbours such as Bangladesh and Nepal as they struggle with infection surges.

These nations have imposed lockdowns and are also turning to China and Russia for vaccines in a desperate effort to fight the pandemic that is casting a bigger and deadlier shadow across South Asia.

India's shortage of shots has global implications because, in addition to its own vaccination efforts, the country has promised to ship out vaccines abroad as part of a United Nations vaccine-sharing programme that is dependent on its supply.

However, DGHS DG Prof ABM Khurshid Alam assured that Bangladesh will get 2.1 million doses of vaccine by the first week of May.

Meanwhile, India is importing shots from the Russian makers of Sputnik V. The first batch was due to arrive Saturday and 125 million more doses of the vaccine will be distributed by an Indian pharmaceutical company later this year.

Vaccine production in Bangladesh

With India slapping a ban on the export of AstraZeneca vaccines made by its Serum Institute, Bangladesh is trying to get technology from Russia and China to produce their vaccines locally.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved in principle a proposal for producing Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines in Bangladesh.

The government on Thursday approved the emergency use of Sinopharm, a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine. It approved the emergency use of the Sputnik V Vaccine of Russia a day earlier.

"We'll get 5 lakh doses of the Chinese vaccine as a gift within 7-10 days. Then we'll start distribution. Then the government will start buying those on a G2G basis," DGDA DG Mahbubur Rahman told reporters on Thursday.

Incepta Pharmaceuticals, Popular Pharma and HealthCare Pharma have the capacity of producing vaccines, and the Chinese vaccine could be produced locally, Mahbubur said.

On Thursday, Dr Shahida Aktar, additional secretary of the Cabinet Division, noted that the government will purchase vaccine technology from Russian and China through the direct procurement method (DPM).

60 more die in Bangladesh as Covid continues its onslaught

In the shadow of Covid crisis-hit neighbour

Bangladesh's largest neighbour India is grappling with the worst outbreak and set yet another daily global record on Saturday with 401,993 new cases, taking its tally to more than 19.1 million. Another 3,523 people died in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 211,853, according to the health ministry. However, the experts believe the actual figures were likely much higher.

The explosion of new Covid-19 cases is overwhelming India, leaving millions of people infected and putting stress on the country's already overtaxed health care system. However, the country has stepped up a vaccination drive for all its adults even though some states say do not have enough jabs.

Months ago, India had appeared to be winning its battle against the pandemic. After a strict initial lockdown, the country did not see a surge in new cases and deaths compared to other countries.

But when the early restrictions were lifted, many people stopped taking precautions with large gatherings, political rallies and religious festivals being held at many places, drawing millions of people.

Neighbours on alert

India's neighbours such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are watching out for a potentially more infectious Covid-19 variant crossing the border from the country as they are also reporting a recent surge in new cases.

The new situation has prompted authorities in these countries to seal borders and restrict travel. However, given the porous nature of the borders, people cross frequently.

Impact on Bangladesh

The surge in India has created big concerns for Bangladesh, where officials fear that new variants circulating in India could bring devastation.

On April 26, the country shut down borders with India for any kind of movement except that of cargoes for the next 14 days as sparks from India's pandemic wildfire seem to have gone out of control.

The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 also recommended that the borders not reopen until the situation in India improves.

Impact on Nepal

Nepal, which shares a border with five northern Indian states, has been reporting thousands of new Covid cases every day, which coincides with the rising tide of cases in India.

Around 6 million Nepali people live and work in India, and the country's latest concern has been the 1,800-kilometre porous border it shares with India. Thousands of Nepalese migrant workers have been returning to the country across this border as India's health system is in tatters.

Nepal launched a vaccination campaign in January with 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India, but it came to a halt as India refused to allow exports in the context of its domestic crisis.

Although the country has also paid for an extra 1 million shots from India, it has been waiting for the delivery since March. Now Nepal is negotiating with Russia to get its doses.

Pakistan

Coinciding with the second wave in India, cases have also been jumping upward in Pakistan since early March.

However, it is still unknown if the Indian variant has been reported in any of the new cases. Travel from India to Pakistan has remained suspended since April 19.

Source: United News of Bangladesh