‘No one should say coronavirus infection has decreased in Bangladesh’

Guardians and parents crowd at college counter to submit fees for the admission in class XI, despite mobile financial service being offered to submit the fees amid novel coronavirus outbreak. Holy Cross College in Dhaka on 28 August 2020.
Guardians and parents crowd at college counter to submit fees for the admission in class XI, despite mobile financial service being offered to submit the fees amid novel coronavirus outbreak. Holy Cross College in Dhaka on 28 August 2020.Tanvir Ahammed
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Although the novel coronavirus infection rate has apparently made a marked fall in Bangladesh in recent weeks, health experts voiced concern that the virus still remains lethal in terms of fatality since the death rate has been showing an uptrend.

Unlike many other countries, they said, Bangladesh has been witnessing a paradox of the coronavirus pandemic since the death rates remain higher amid lower infections.

The experts attributed the growing death rate from coronavirus infection to mainly the ‘nonchalant’ attitude of the health ministry towards dealing with the situation, people’s desperateness about the disease, their lack of ‘confidence’ in public health services, late arrival to hospitals and wrong treatment and abuse of medicines.

As of 31 August, Bangladesh registered 312,996 coronavirus cases and 4,281 deaths. In comparison with the tests conducted in the country, the infection rate was 20.19 per cent. Against the total number of detected cases, the recovery rate was 65.46 per cent while the mortality rate 1.37 per cent till that day.

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On 31 July, the confirmed virus cases in Bangladesh was 237,661 with 21.98 per cent infection rate while the death toll was 3,111 with 1.31 per cent mortality rate. That means 1,170 people died only in August and the fatality rate increased by 0.06 per cent while the infection decreased by 1.79 per cent over the same period.

Contacted, professor Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on COVID-19, said it seems the coronavirus infection is slowing down to some extent, but the fatality rate is on the rise.

He bemoaned that the health ministry now looks a bit relaxed in dealing with the situation

He said elderly people and those who have co-morbidities are mainly losing the battle against the virus. “It’s difficult to say the exact reason behind the growing trend of mortality since we’re not getting enough information from the authorities concerned. The government stopped briefing on the virus situation abruptly without any reason which is interrupting the flow of information. It’s a blunder … it has sent out a wrong message.”

The expert said people now are not taking the disease seriously and showing less interest in going to hospitals. “Many coronavirus-infected people are staying home and taking treatment there as they lack trust in hospitals. It’s one of the reasons behind the rise in the fatality rate.”

Besides, Nazrul said, now people are not getting proper treatment at the hospitals as government authorities are not serious about ensuring necessary equipment and other things, including high-flow nasal cannula, ICU facilities and sufficient oxygen. “Overall, I think, a lethargic attitude of the government and people towards the deadly virus is contributing to the rise in the mortality rate.”

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Professor Kanak Kanti Barua, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said no one should say the coronavirus infection has decreased based on daily sample tests of 10,000-12,000. “But we can say the death rate has increased as nearly 40 people on average have been dying every day for a few weeks.”

He said people’s apathy to the treatment at the hospitals and late admission may be the main reasons behind the rise in the fatality rate. “We’re observing that many people are coming to hospitals at the last stage or with serious lung infections. So, it becomes difficult for us to save such patients.”

The ministry is now little interested in procuring necessary equipment and medicine, including high-flow nasal cannula, for hospitals to treat critical COVID-19 patients. The ministry looks confident that coronavirus is going away in the near future, but it’s unlikely to happen
Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad president Iqbal Arsenal

The BSMMU VC said a good number of those patients dying from COVID-19 have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney, cancer, cardiac, respiratory and other underlying health problems. “People having comorbidities shouldn’t take much time to come to hospitals after they are tested positive for the virus. But they’re taking admission when their condition deteriorates sharply. Even, many coronavirus patients are coming to hospitals with serious lung infections only because of not taking proper treatment at the early stage.”

He said there is a growing tendency among people to receive treatment at home and take medicine as per their relatives’ advice. “I think it's a dangerous practice. People are doing it for lack of awareness. I would like to advise people coming to hospitals after getting infected with the virus. Physicians will decide whether the patients need to take admission or not examining their condition and symptoms. Or else, we won’t be able to contain the fatality rate.”

President of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad Iqbal Arsenal said they are worried over the uptrend of mortality from coronavirus infection. “We’re contacting physicians and hospitals to know the reasons. The first reason is people are coming to hospitals very late. Many people having mild symptoms are receiving treatment at home but they don’t check the oxygen-saturation level, which can fall abruptly and create breathing problem and lung infection.”

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He said the wrong treatment and abuse of medicine is another reason behind the growing mortality rate. “Everyone now knows the coronavirus treatment protocol and takes medicine as per their whims. There’re also rumours that people can recover fast by taking some particular medicine or herbals and many people are taking those. Some people also take advice from physicians over the phone and stay at home. But all the coronavirus infected people don’t have the same type of symptoms and immune system. So, it’s a wrong practice to take medicine without proper examinations, diagnosis and physician’s advice.”

Iqbal further said physicians also have an observation that coronavirus is becoming more lethal now and quickly affecting people’s lungs and respiratory system, causing higher death. “Most patients are now coming to hospitals with lung problems. So, we think the virus is becoming deadlier than.”

He bemoaned that the health ministry now looks a bit relaxed in dealing with the situation. “The ministry is now little interested in procuring necessary equipment and medicine, including high-flow nasal cannula, for hospitals to treat critical COVID-19 patients. The ministry looks confident that coronavirus is going away in the near future, but it’s unlikely to happen.”

Iqbal said coronavirus is resurging in the countries where it eased earlier. “So, we must remain alert. We’ll have to make people aware of maintaining health hygiene and safety rules. We must encourage people to undergo tests and come to hospitals at the right time. Or else, we have to pay a heavy price in the coming days.”

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