Covid looks under control in Bangladesh, but ‘no room for complacency’
Publish- February 13, 2021, 08:55 PM
Abdur Rahman Jahangir - UNB Staff Writer
Update- February 13, 2021, 09:46 PM
Coronavirus has a similarity with influenza which may emerge every year: Experts
Though the Covid-19 pandemic looks to have become under control in Bangladesh with the weather getting warmer, experts think there is no room for complacency as this deadly virus may remerge any time with any new strain.
They also said the coronavirus did not spread noticeably during winter in the country despite the warning from experts for many reasons, including growing antibodies among people, warmer condition, viral interference and people’s good immune system.
The experts advised the government to strengthen its virus control measures and vaccination programme alongside encouraging people to maintain health safety rules and wear masks to get rid of the virus.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh registered 291 fresh corona cases till Saturday morning raising the total caseload to 540,266.
The daily infection rate fell to 2.26 percent while the mortality rate stands at 1.53 percent.
Viral interference & antibodies
Renowned virologist and former Vice-Chancellor of BSMMU Prof Dr Nazrul Islam said many experts had thought the virus transmission would spread fast during the winter, but it did not happen so due to various reasons, mainly for viral interference.
“Many people in our country have been infected with many other viruses and flues that usually spread in Bangladesh during the winter months. So, the corona has become weaker during winter due to the prevalence of local viruses and flues,” he observed.
“Apart from the viral interference, it is also a fact that antibodies have developed among many people in the country. So, the transmission rate has declined drastically,” the expert observed.
Replying to a question, he said Bangladesh still did not reach the herd immunity level. “We’re moving towards herd immunity, and we may achieve it through the mass vaccination.”
Mortality rate ‘still higher’
Abu Jamil Faisel, one of the members of the Public Health Expert Divisional Advisors' Group, said the coronavirus transmission is much lower than their projection during the winter, but the death rate is much higher in comparison with the infection one.
“More than 10 deaths from corona are being reported every day from different pockets as the transmission of the virus is still going on at some places and we must focus on it,” he observed.
The expert warned that the virus may remerge if its transmission at different pockets cannot be controlled immediately.
Dr Faisel also said many people with Covid symptoms are not coming under tests while many healthy people are doing it for a certificate for foreign trips and other reasons, resulting in many negative reports than positive ones.
“Many suspected corona patients preferred to stay at home instead of going under tests and receiving treatment during winter with symptoms like fever and coughing thinking it as seasonal flues. That’s why many cases remained undetected,” he observed.
More rapid antigen tests needed
Dr Faisel thinks the real Covid scenario has not reflected during winter for lack of necessary tests. “People are showing reluctance about tests and the government is also not encouraging them to do so. It’s not a good sign.”
Though people are vaccinated, he said the government should not decrease the number of tests. “We must increase the rapid antigen test and give more focus on the pockets where the virus is still prevailing.”
Faisel warned that this virus may spread fast again if the combative measures are weakened. “Besides, new strains are being found in different countries, including the UK, the USA, Brazil, and South Africa. We can’t say these strains won’t come here.”
Prof Dr Mohammed Atiqur Rahman, a respiratory medicine expert and the treasurer of BSMMU, said the coronavirus remerged mainly in winter-prone countries during the cold weather.
“Bangladesh is a tropical country. More importantly, the temperature hardly came down below 10 degrees Celsius during this winter. So, the virus couldn’t spread in Bangladesh like the European countries,” he opined.
He also said many people maintained health safety rules and wore masks during the winter as experts warned of a deteriorating situation. “This is another reason behind the low transmission of the virus.”
Dr Atiq also said it seems the people of Bangladesh, mainly rural ones, have a strong immune system and virus resistance power as they work hard and get infected with many local viruses. “They’re also non-alcoholic.”
He thinks the coronavirus has a similarity with influenza which may emerge every year. “Around 50,000 people die of influenza every year in the US even after getting vaccinated against it. So, we should remain careful about this virus as it may emerge next year even after the mass vaccination.”
Lifestyle, food habit matter
Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said the virus is less virulent in Bangladesh and South Asian countries than the European ones and America.
“It may be for geographical and environmental reasons and people’s good habits and lifestyle. Our people consume less frozen food and get more sunlight than those in the European countries. “Our many people don’t use artificial light and air conditioners. They also work hard. I think these things have contributed to making their immune system stronger,” he said.
The infection rate in many badly-affected countries had gone down to one percent and then spiked again. “So, we shouldn’t think we’re getting rid of the virus with the end of winter and through the vaccination. The virus infection may spike suddenly if we lower our control measures.”
He said some scientists are warning that the coronavirus may reappear in the beginning of winter in different countries every year. “It’s not still certain, but we can’t ignore it as many new strains are coming.”