Coronavirus on rise in the capital

In the last one month, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased by 56 per cent in Dhaka as the number of cases are gradually on the rise again in the capital.

According to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), the transmission of the virus has spread throughout the capital while the number of confirmed cases is increasing in almost all areas. The number of infections, however, is higher in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi, and Uttara.

Coronavirus infection was high in the capital from the beginning. With the spread of the infection across the country, the rate of infection had started declining in the capital, but the situation seems to have reverted as hygiene measures are relaxed.

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Life in Dhaka has returned to the state as before the onset of the pandemic. Crowds and traffic jams are almost the same as before. Very few people are out on the streets wearing masks. Maintaining physical distance has lost its importance. Hygiene rules are not being fully maintained at kitchen markets, offices and banks.

People have been moving around carelessly. There is no visible government initiative regarding prevention and control of the infection. Virtually, the people are not facing any restrictions.

So, infection is increasing in Dhaka, one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The government confirmed the first coronavirus infection on 8 March. Since then, coronavirus continued to increase gradually. On 5 April, IEDCR identified five locations as coronavirus clusters in the country. Of these, Tolarbagh and Basabo were in Dhaka.

There has been community transmission from clusters long ago. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases now stand at 297,083 while fatalities are 3,983. So far, there are 1,82,875 recoveries.

Though the IEDCR provides area-wise numbers of the confirmed COVID-19 cases, it does not have all the areas’ statistics. Till 24 August, it provided information of 218,122 cases. Of them, 75,586 are residents of the capital.

Till 22 July, the total number of cases was 48,322 in Dhaka. This means, the number of patients increased by 27,264 in one month. Compared to four and a half months, the number of cases in the capital has increased by 56 per cent in one month. The transmission was somewhat less in the capital than outside, midway, and as of 27 May, 54 per cent of the total infected persons in the country were residents of Dhaka.

By 29 July, infection had dropped to 31 per cent. The cases in the capital are now on an increase, with 35 per cent of the coronavirus victims in the country residing in the capital.

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The actual number of infections, however, is higher than the number given by the department of health based on sample tests. Preliminary results from a joint study by the IEDCR and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) said on 10 August that an estimated 9 per cent of people in Dhaka were infected with coronavirus.

According to the World Bank, the population of Dhaka was 18 million in 2017. That means, the number of coronavirus victims is 1,620,000 in the capital.

Most affected areas

According to the IEDCR’s update till 23 August, the number of infections is over a thousand in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi, and Uttara of Dhaka. The number of infected people in Jatrabari, Mugda, Gulshan, Mohakhali, Badda, Khilgaon and Moghbazar is between 600 and 1,000. Along with the areas, cases are increasing in almost all the areas of the capital.

In Mirpur, 3,070 people have been infected so far. The number of cases had been 2,150 in this region till 22 July. This means about 1,000 cases have been identified over this month in the region. In Dhanmondi, a total of 795 cases were identified till 22 July. Now it has increased to 1,216.

Lockdown scenario

A lockdown was in place across the country by declaring a public holiday from 26 March to prevent the spread of the infection. The holiday was revoked from 31 May. Then the infection was seen to spread rapidly. In such a situation, it was decided to go for area-wise lockdown as per the severity of infections. Experimentally, lockdowns were enforced in East Rajabazar and Wari, but now there is no visible initiative to control the infection in any area.

IEDCR consultant Mushtaq Hossain told Prothom Alo that the density of population is high in the capital along with the number of offices and establishments. Health measures are not being observed everywhere. There has been a lot of gatherings and travelling before and after Eid. All this has an impact.

Besides, there are big hospitals in the capital, but no community-based health care systems, he said adding that this is the responsibility of the city corporation, but they do not have the resources and manpower. Deaths and infections could be further reduced if community-based health care along with regular follow-up of all the infected persons could be ensured, he said.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten here in English by Nusrat Nowrin.