As there is an apprehension that Bangladesh may witness the resurgence of Covid-19 in the coming winter, health experts say educating people, encouraging them to follow health safety rules, ensuring adequate tests and strictly quarantining visitors from abroad are key to containing it effectively.
Besides, they said, the government should prepare a roadmap and take effective preventive measures based on projection and experiences learned from the first wave so that it can act fast to control the possible winter wave and ensure proper healthcare services for the infected people.
The also advised the government to resume daily briefing on corona situation and provide proper messages from there to sensitise people to involve with the government’s efforts to check the virus as they have become very reluctant about maintaining the health hygiene rules due to fall in the number of cases.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also recently warned that the Covid-19 situation may deteriorate to some extent during the winter, and asked everyone to bolster preparations accordingly.
Some experts, however, said corona may become weaker during the winter due to intervention and prevalence of some other viruses and flues at that time.
Contacted, Dr. Abu Jamil Faisel, one of the members of the Public Health Expert Divisional Advisors' Group, said people usually get infected with various cold-related diseases like fever, coughing, sneezing and influenza and viruses during the winter. “On the other hand, corona virus can remain alive for a long time in cold weather. So, the infection rate may show an uptrend at that time. We’ve alerted the government about a winter wave of the virus and take proper steps to tackle it.”
He said the corona infection rate has declined but the fatality rate is still very high. “It’s an indication that the local transmission of the virus is going on alarmingly. If we can’t formulate a proper roadmap right now, we’ve to pay a heavy price.”
Dr Faisel said they suggest the government to take a strategy so that people get encouraged to properly maintain health safety guidelines like wearing masks, avoiding mass gatherings, washing hands with soap, using sanitisers, and maintaining social distancing.
Besides, he said, ensuring enough testing kits and PCR labs in all districts, caring for infected people, and tracing and quarantining their contacts can be the means of controlling fresh outbreak of the deadly virus during the cold weather.
Dr Faisel said they advised the government to ask every district and upazia administration to formulate their own roadmap and plan in consultation with local people to contain the spread of the virus. “We must involve people with plans and programmes to control the virus. Without people’s involvement and cooperation, we won’t be able to control the possible winter wave of corona.”
Renowned medicine specialist and Prime Minister's personal physician Dr ABM Abdullah said it is an assumption that corona cases may rise sharply during the winter like some European countries.
“Humidity reduces drastically while dust pollution takes a serious turn during winter which causes the emergence of some viral flues ad increase in respiratory infections. As people suffer from various cold-related virus and flues during the period, it can aid vector droplets containing the coronavirus that circulate here and there easily. So, we think the situation may get worse during the winter,” he said.
Dr Abdullah said the Prime Minister recently issued a warning in this regard mainly to make people alert as reluctance is visible among them in maintaining health safety rules and guidelines. “We must make people aware, educate and empower them to protect themselves from the infection of the virus. Self-defence is the best way to prevent a pandemic like corona.”
As there is an apparent public apathy towards wearing masks and maintaining social distancing and other rules, he said a strong campaign should be launched to convince people to follow those. “I think people’s awareness is crucial to check the corona infection.”
Besides, he said, this time the government should remain strict about screening people coming from abroad and send them to quarantine mandatorily. “We must take all necessary steps to prevent imported cases as international flights have resumed. Testing and tracing is also necessary to control the virus. I hope we'll be able to tackle corona, if it resurges again, far better way using the experiences we’ve already gathered.”
The PM’s doctor said hospitals should remain ready with all necessary equipment and facilities so that they can face any challenge if the situation worsens in the winter. “We should also keep adequate quality masks, PPE and other safety gears for doctors unlike in the past so that they can handle the pressure of patients without hesitation.”
Contacted, Prof Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and former vice-chancellor at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said coronavirus still prevails in the country at an alarming rate while some experts are warning that the infection rate may intensify during the winter.
“But I personally think the situation may not deteriorate that much due to the interference of other viruses and flu-like diseases. Corona may get weaker during winter due to the prevalence of other viruses. It’s my assumption, but we should remain alert and take all preventive measures since corona is behaving differently in different conditions and seasons,” he said.
Prof Nazrul Islam, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC), said the government should properly assess the situation based on some scientific projections and take steps to check the second corona wave.