Attributing the surge in Covid-19 cases to increased public movement in the capital and elsewhere, experts warn that the country will see darker days ahead if the government fails to ensure physical distancing and make people follow the other health guidelines right away.
“The number of coronavirus cases has shot up due to the relaxation of shutdown before and after Eid-ul-Fitr,” said Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser (Southeast Asia Region) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the last 14 days, the number of people infected with coronavirus has shot up dangerously as people frequently ignored the guidelines, including maintaining physical distancing, he said.
The country has so far recorded 49,534 Covid-19 positive cases and more than half of them — 25,664 — were detected in the last two weeks, he pointed out.
The remaining cases were detected between March 8 and May 18.
As many as 2,381 people tested coronavirus positive and 22 died in 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday.
Weeks before Eid, which was celebrated on May 23, the government announced that shopping malls would reopen on a limited scale, following a closure of more than a month and a half.
Although most of the malls remained closed, many opened their shutters, attracting shoppers.
Then thousands left the capital days before Eid to celebrate the festival at their village homes, violating travel restrictions which had been imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Prof Muzaherul said such increased public movement has caused the number of coronavirus cases to go up significantly. “The country is now under serious risk of coronavirus transmission.”
Again, after the government on May 28 declared that the coronavirus-driven shutdown would be withdrawn, people in droves returned to Dhaka to join work, ignoring social distancing guidelines and posing risks of contracting the disease and spreading it to others. On the same day, the government’s very own National Technical Advisory Committee warned of an explosion in Covid-19 cases if health and safety measures are not implemented strictly.
“Lifting the lockdown before strictly implementing the rules for preventing transmission will increase the number of positive patients and create pressure on the healthcare system,” read the statement of the 17-member committee.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Prof Dr Md Shahidullah, chairperson of the committee, also acknowledged that the recent surge in coronavirus cases was a result of people’s increased movement before and after the Eid.
“Apart from this, lack of awareness among people is another reason. We’ve seen people roaming in the streets without maintaining health safety. This has a cumulative impact on the rise in novel coronavirus cases,” said Shahidullah, also a senior child specialist and the president of Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council.
He, however, said that if people followed health guidelines in the coming days, the transmission risk would subside.
The 22 deaths took the death toll to 672, according to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The Covid-19 death rate in the country is now 1.36 percent, Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general (administration) of DGHS, said at a briefing yesterday.
A total of 11,439 samples were tested at 52 labs across the country in the 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday.
Meanwhile, 816 Covid-19 patients recovered during the period, taking the total number of recovered patients to 10,597. The recovery rate reached 21.39 percent, she said, adding that 449 people were placed under isolation in those 24 hours.
Among the deceased, 19 were male and three female, she said, adding that 11 were from Dhaka, eight from Chattogram, two from Sylhet and the others from Barishal Division.
Of them, one was between 21-30, eight between 41-50, four within 51-60, seven between 61-70 and the other two between 71-80 years, Dr Nasima also said.