Bangladesh reels from Covid-19 a year since first case

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, Mar 8 (efe-epa).- With exactly one year since the detection of the first coronavirus cases in Bangladesh on Monday, the country continues to reel from the impact of the disease, while the authorities have given mixed responses about the management of the pandemic.

Bangladesh has registered 551,175 confirmed Covid-19 cases in one year – including 845 in the last 24 hours -, and 8,476 deaths, according to a statement by the health department.

While the number of cases and deaths are relatively low for a country of over 160 million inhabitants, those impacted by the coronavirus claim the disease left many families devastated.

“My mother tested Covid-19 positive on Jan. 6 and spent about a week in hospital before we took her back home,” Fahima Durrat, an assistant professor at Dhaka University, told EFE.

“After just one day at home, we found her oxygen saturation falling. We took her to the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. But the virus already affected her immune system and she died on January 22 at the hospital,” she added.

Durrat said that the coronavirus had also infected her grandmother, father, nephews and sister-in-law, leaving a severe impact on their entire family.

“It left us in a helpless situation. Some of our family members have recovered. But my father is still suffering from memory loss and my grandmother is also not fully cured,” she said.

ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh’s Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), expressed regret over the deaths caused by Covid-19, but claimed that “a bigger disaster” was avoided.

“With the help of all stakeholders, we could keep our death rate low. Many people had forecasted corpses lying abandoned in Dhaka streets. We could at least avoid that,” he stressed.

Bangladesh experienced the peak of the pandemic in the months of June and July with the highest deaths (64) recorded on Jun. 30 and the maximum single day cases of 4,019 were reported on Jul. 2.

The number of daily cases have since come down, with less than 1,000 since Jan. 11, but experts have warned against any complacency.

“Initially there were some wrong decisions, like allowing returning migrants from Italy into home quarantine. It helped spread community transmission,” said Nazrul Islam, a virologist from the country’s National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19.

“The transmission rate is again upward in the last two-three days. But we believe it would not turn very bad because many people developed antibody, and also we have started the vaccination by now,” he added.

Bangladesh officially started mass vaccinations against Covid-19 on Feb. 7 after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the drive towards the end of January.

The South Asian country is using the vaccine jointly developed by the Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

It has so far received nine million doses of vaccine – two million as a gift from India and another seven million through a purchase agreement between the vaccine’s regional producer, Serum Institute of India, and a local vendor.

Bangladesh authorities in November signed an agreement with the Serum Institute and its local partner Beximco Pharmaceuticals to purchase a total of 30 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to a statement by the Directorate General of Health Services, a total of 3,789,352 people had been inoculated until Sunday.

IEDRCR’s Alamgir said challenges still persist as they try too keep a lid on the infection rate especially in the face of the mutating coronavirus.

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