COVID-19 transmission rises rapidly after holiday

People return to Dhaka after celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr at their village homes amid the outbreak of novel coronavirus
People return to Dhaka after celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr at their village homes amid the outbreak of novel coronavirusUNB
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Despite the government declared holiday and the lockdown, the transmission of coronavirus remained on an upward curve. The general holiday ended on 30 May and the lockdown was lifted. Since then the rate of coronavirus transmission has seen a rapid rise. The number of new COVID-19 cases increased exponentially. In the 20 days since a week after everything was opened up again, around 70,000 new coronavirus cases were detected.

For the first time in a single day the number of cases exceeded 3000 on 9 June. In the 93 days from 8 March to 8 June, 68,504 persons were infected. And in the 20 days from 9 June till this Sunday, 69,283 cased were confirmed. That means the rate of transmission doubled.

Increased public movement and gatherings led to higher transmission of COVID-19, say analysts. This has been evident in the country from the start of the pandemic outbreak. They recommend immediate area-based lockdowns to bring the virus transmission under control.

The spread of the virus shot up after the lockdown and other prohibitions were relaxed. According to reports of Oxford University and the Guardian on Saturday, Bangladesh was among the 10 countries where the spread of the infection shot up after the restrictions were relaxed.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that Bangladesh ranked at 9th among the 215 countries and regions over the past week, in the number of newly detected coronavirus cases. Bangladesh has been on this list for quite some time.

The first coronavirus case in Bangladesh was detected on 8 March. As the virus steadily spread, a general holiday was declared on 26 March. Though it was not officially termed a ‘lockdown,’ transport, businesses, industries were all shut down, much on the lines of lockdown. But it later became lax and was not effective in many districts.

At that juncture, readymade garment factories and iftar sales were opened on 26 April and the lockdown was even more lax. Two weeks from then (from 10 to 16 May), the situation deteriorated rapidly.

Experts say that the results of the laxity in maintaining the lockdown were manifest in the first week of June. The general holiday ended on 30 May and everything opened up. A week before that, shops had opened up for Eid-ul-Fitr. People also went in hordes to their village homes. Around two weeks from then in the second week of June, there was a leap in the number of coronavirus cases.

Sudden increase in infections

After the holiday ended, in the second week of June or the 14th week of the virus outbreak, the average number of cases a day leapt to over 3000. The number of confirmed cases in proportion to the tests also went up.

For the first time in a single day the number of cases exceeded 3000 on 9 June. In the 93 days from 8 March to 8 June, 68,504 persons were infected. And in the 20 days from 9 June till this Sunday, 69,283 cased were confirmed. That means the rate of transmission doubled.

An analysis of the virus transmission reveals that in the last week of the general holiday, that is, the 12th week of the coronavirus outbreak (23-30 May), on average 1,790 new cases were detected every day. And on the first week after the holiday this average went up to 2,631. Then on the second week after the holiday, that is the 14th week of the pandemic in the country (7-13 June), the average number of new cases per day went up to 3,056. The 16th week of the viral transmission ended on Saturday and in his week (21-27 June), the number of cased confirmed day stood at 3,600.

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The number of tests also increased, but it is not only because of increased tests that the number of patients has increased. The ratio of infections in comparison to tests has also has increased. From 9 June till Sunday, the rate of detection in proportion to tests was 21.70 percent. Basically the rate of detection increased in the last week of May. Prior to that, in the third month of the virus transmission (9 May-8 June), the rate of detection was 18.37 percent. In the second month (9April – 8 May), this rate was 11.58 percent.

According to Johns Hopkins University, among 188 countries and regions, Bangladesh ranked at 27 in the number of deaths due to coronavirus.

Adviser of the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Mushtaq Hussain, told Prothom Alo that the transmission effect can be noted in two three weeks. The lockdown more or less was lifted in the third week of May because of Eid. On 31 May everything opened up again. Then from the second week of June the virus spread began to increase. This was the impact of the laxity during Eid and the lift of lockdown. It led to the increase of the transmission of the virus. He said that area-based lockdowns were imperative to control this spread. And this must be done all over the country within close spans of time.

Over 1,700 deaths

Though the number of infections has increased, over the past two weeks the number of deaths has slightly fallen. The 16th week of the virus outbreak, ending on Saturday, saw 270 deaths due to the virus. The week before the deaths had been 286 and the week before that it had been 293.

However, over the past 24 hours the number of deaths shot up again to 45. On Sunday it was 43. At Sunday’s regular news bulletin of the Directorate General Health Services (DGHS), the directorate’s additional director Nasima Sultana said that over the past 24 hours there had been 3,809 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases up to 137,787. And there were 1,738 deaths in this span of time, with 55,727 patients recovering.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, among 188 countries and regions, Bangladesh ranked at 27 in the number of deaths due to coronavirus.

The government has now taken initiative for area-wise lockdowns. An experimental lockdown is being carried out in East Rajabazar and that has been yielding good results so far.

Former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), virologist Nazrul Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that the increase in the number of patients and detections is because of the lifting of the lockdown.

The rate of detections began to increase at the end of May. Now every day the rate of positive test results is 18 to 22 percent, some days even exceeding 23 percent. Nazrul Islam said that this rate must be decreased. The lockdown in East Rajabazar was showing good results and he hoped that such lockdowns in other areas would yield similar results. However, he added, it would be better if isolation and quarantine facilities could also be ensured.

* This report has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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