Medical &Health

Bangladesh ‘braces for Covid’s winter wave’; experts urge caution

Though the Covid-19 pandemic looks to have eased in Bangladesh with an insignificant infection rate for the past several weeks, experts warn that a fresh mild wave of Covid-19 may hit the country during this winter.

Since the virus still remains in some pockets of the country, they said it is likely to spread fast amid the presence of different flues with the fall of mercury next month due to public apathy to wear masks and health safety rules, low pace in vaccination and lack of human intervention and necessary bulwarks.

The analysts also said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rightly rang the alarm bell last week as the virus cases are surging again in many countries and neighbouring India’s West Bengal.

They, however, said Bangladesh can avoid the possible winter wave by intensifying the virus control measures, including strict screening at air and land ports, encouraging people to maintain health safety rules, and wear masks and strengthening the vaccination drive.

On October 28, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged all to maintain health protocols like wearing masks to check the resurgence of Coronavirus in the upcoming winter as the virus hits many countries, including the USA, England and some European countries, at this time.

Current Covid situation

Bangladesh reported 256 Covid cases on Wednesday with 1.31 percent passivity rate. The fresh cases were detected after testing 19,523 samples, said the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Though Covid infection rate crossed 30 percent in July this year and it continued falling from mid-August. The virus came down to below five percent on September 21 while it declined to below 3 percent on October 3 and below two percent on October 22.

So far, 2,98,97,953 people have fully been vaccinated in the country while 4,28,14,447 received the first dose as of Tuesday, according to the DGHS.

Apprehension

Contacted, Prof Muzaherul Huq, a former adviser to WHO South-East Asia region, said Covid has no correlation with any season. “But it can spread during winter with other viral diseases and flues.”

He said people usually get infected with different flues and cold-related diseases during winter. “So, many people can’t understand they get infected with the virus as they don't undergo tests. The undetected Covid patients roam here and there freely and rapidly spread the virus.”

Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin) said there is a possibility of increasing Covid transmission in the country in the days to come as the virus is remerging in different countries such as the UK, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Latvia.

“A lockdown-like restriction was imposed in Moscow while a lockdown has been enforced in Latvia aweek back. An uptrend is also there in our neighbouring country India. So, we fear that we may face a mild Covid wave in the coming winter,” he said.

Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, one of the members of the Public Health Expert Divisional Advisors' Group, said coronavirus is still there in some pockets in the country. “So, we’ve to remain alert as the infection rate may show an uptrend in the days to come.”

“As everything remains open, most of our people are now reluctant about maintaining health safety rules. We’re also lagging behind in vaccination in this region. Until we provide vaccines to 80 percent of the population, we may see the rise in the virus cases anytime,” he added.

Reinforcing preventive measures

Dr Muzaherul said the Covid situation has been under control for several weeks and the government should focus on maintaining it.

“We need to follow the rules of hygiene and extend the vaccination programme. We also should give importance to contract tracing, and identifying the infected persons and ensuring their isolation to keep the virus situation under control,” he said.

He said people should be encouraged to undergo Covid tests if they suffer from symptoms of the virus.

Dr Faisel said the control measures should be enhanced to eliminate the virus from different pockets where it is still prevailing.

The expert said the government should take a strategy so that people get encouraged to properly maintain health safety guidelines like wearing masks, avoiding mass gatherings, washing hands with soap, using sanitisers, and maintaining social distance.

Monitoring incoming passengers

Dr Faisel said Bangladesh has air and port connectivity with the countries where the virus is spreading again. “People are travelling to these countries regularly. So, it’s necessary to intensify preventive measures at air, sea and land ports to check the arrival of any new variant from abroad.”

He said any relaxation in screening any incoming passengers may invite a great danger with the import of any new variant.

Dr Muzaherul said screening at the air and land ports should be intensified and no one having the virus symptoms should be allowed to go back home without quarantine.

Virus can dodge antibody

Renowned scientist and Gono Bishwabidyala’s microbiology department Prof Dr Bijon Kumar Sil said Bangladesh should remain alert to face a declining Covid situation during winter.

“I personally think the situation may not worsen badly as most people in Bangladesh have antibodies. But we must remain alert as people can get infected with the virus despite having the antibodies,” he said.

Dr Bijon said the new Covid variant, AY4.2, has now been spreading in different countries, but it may rapidly increase in Bangladesh as this is a kind of Delta variant. “We also can’t say a new deadly variant won’t emerge which can dodge the existing antibody. As long as the virus is not eliminated from the world, we must always remain careful.”

He said the government should make a target of bringing all the aging population under the two doses of vaccines as early as possible since the infection and fatality rate among them is much higher.

Source: United News of Bangladesh