Wednesday, January 20, 2021 | ePaper

Panic grips people amid renewed spike in corona infections

Experts worried about preparedness; urged to formulate Covid vaccine policy

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Reza Mahmud :
A fresh panic over coronavirus gripped among masses as the second wave of the pandemic hits Bangladesh with the advent of winter.
Experts have previously said that the incidence of corona will increase in winter.
The number of coronavirus cases and deaths are increasing in the country over the last two weeks, especially in Dhaka city, which still remains the country's epicentre of coronavirus infection with over one fourth of the total confirmed cases.
So far 4,60,619 people have been infected with coronavirus in the country, and 1,37, 734 cases have been identified alone in the capital, according to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
Besides, 36 people died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours till 8.00am on Saturday taking the total number of fatalities to 6,580.
In this situation, experts are worried about Bangladesh's preparedness to deal with the second wave of coronavirus when most hospitals do not have a centralized oxygen supply to treat Covid-19 patients and patients having limited access to ICU facility.
Only 24 hospitals across the country have the facility. In other hospitals, the oxygen cylinder is the only hope. Besides,  there are 547 ICU beds in the hospitals across country. Of these, 370 are occupied with patiens and 240 are vacant.
Hospitals in Dhaka have only 237 ICU beds. Of these, only 20 beds remain vacant and patients are admitted to 217 beds, which is 63 per cent of the total beds, according to  the DGHS information. Dedicated Covid-19 hospitals across the country have 11,338 beds for treating patients. Of these, 74 per cent or 8,340 beds are empty. Besdies, there are 546 ICU beds in the country. Of these, 306 patients are admitted in beds and 240 are vacant.
Only 20 ICU beds are vacant in different hospitals in Dhaka. Patients are admitted in 217 beds, which is 73 per cent of the total beds.
Dr Farid Hossain Miah, Director (Hospital) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said that there are limitations. "But efforts are on to tackle the second wave of the pandemic."
"The government should take tougher measures along with boosting treatment facilities in the dedicated Covid-19 hospitals to tackle the second wave of the pandemic," former World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Advisor Dr Muzaherul Huq told The New Nation.
He said restrictions are "absolutely necessary" to contain the rapid spread of the virus.
Replaying to a question, Dr Muzaherul Huq said, "The government should formulate a national Covid vaccine policy for procurement, storage and distribution of a suitable vaccine. "We also need to conduct a national-level serosurveillance survey to know the actual data about the exposure levels and the presence of antibodies in people. We need the rapid antibody test to see the level of immunity people have. It'll help get an idea about the required doses of vaccine and set the priority for its justified distribution," he observed.
He also said the government must procure any vaccine based on some principles such as efficiency and safety levels, availability and affordability. "We must consider all these things before signing any deal for the vaccine. Bangladesh should not procure any vaccine, which it cannot afford in terms of money, preservation and distribution."
Professor Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, Chairman, National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 told The New Nation on Saturday, "The coronavirus infection was reduced number in last three months. But it has increased again during the last two weeks. You can say it as u-turn of the pandemic."
Replying to a question, he said, Oxford-AstraZeneca applied its vaccine on two separate age groups of people and found different results.  "It has been found 90 percent effective below 55 age group people and 60 percent effective above 55 age group persons."
"Besides, it also has applied different doses of vaccine like half dose and full dos in its trials. In these circumstances, while the controversy started about its effectiveness, the company is saying its retrials. In this situation, we have to gather more information whether we lag behind to get the vaccine on time or not," he said.
Asking about taking Beximco Group as media to ink a deal with India's Serum in obtaining the vaccine, the Professor said government has taken the decision to get that the vaccine earlier.
"When the government started preliminary discussion with Serum to get the vaccine, the Beximco Group has already been signed deal to get five lakh doses. As a result, the government has singed pack with Beximco Group for getting fast delivery," he said.
Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said, "Bangladesh may not get sufficient doses of any vaccine at the primary stage. "So, we need proper planning to successfully use whatever we get for controlling the pandemic."
He said Bangladesh should also focus on the vaccines those could be preserved using the existing cold chain network.

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