The experts predict that the coronavirus cases may start declining at the end of June next, but it is unlikely to be eliminated anytime soon
The coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh is likely to peak in mid-May, taking the infection cases to a much higher level at the end of the month, according to projections made by a panel of eight health experts under the Health Ministry.
The experts predict that the coronavirus cases may start declining at the end of June next, but it is unlikely to be eliminated anytime soon.
The projection work was carried out by taking the daily information provided by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in their daily bulletin and insights from the eight divisions.
The experts suggested focusing on ensuring cent percent use of masks by people, social distancing, frequent hand washing with soap and water and the lockdown in the worst-hit areas to contain the deadly virus.
On March 28 last, the Health Ministry formed a group of public health experts comprising eight noted physicians assigning one to each of the divisions to assess the corona situation, make projections and suggestions in strengthening the government's efforts to fight the corona pandemic.
Talking to UNB, Dr Abu Jamil Faisel, one of the members of the expert group, said they have been periodically updating the coronavirus projection and they have submitted the latest one to the DGHS on May 2.
As per their projection, he said, the total number of coronavirus cases will increase by around five times at the end of May and the death will also go up accordingly.
The expert said they made the projection following the classical SIR (Susceptible-Infectious-Removed (recovered + death) model.
"Our projections are based on assumptions and the current available data following the SIR model. Different countries across the world are making projections about the coronavirus outbreak based on this model and others. Even, an institution in Singapore, made a projection using our country's data, and their projections are almost similar to the projections that we have made."
He said a study projected that around four lakh people will get infected with the coronavirus and around one lakh of them will die in Bangladesh. "The trend we're observing here, we don't think one lakh people can die from the virus in our country under any circumstance. Maximum 1,500-2,000 people can die if the virus keeps on wreaking havoc here."
The health expert, however, said they could have understood the corona situation better had the country's capacity been extended to at least 10,000 tests per day. "Even though, we think, the number of infections and deaths at the end of the month will be close to our projections."
"As it's a novel virus, and its trend vary in different countries at different times, it's quite difficult to predict. We've seen the virus spiked suddenly after showing a declining trend in many countries. But we can say with a great confidence that we wouldn't face the dangerous situation like in the USA, Italy and Spain for many reasons, and one is that we've few elderly populations like them," he said.
The health expert said they warned that the transmission of the virus cannot be checked if the hundred percent use of mask and all of the health and hygiene instructions cannot be ensured. "Maintaining social distancing is not possible in our densely-populated country in most cases as many people live in a single house and even in a room. But all can use the mask to remain safe and prevent the transmission."
As the government has been gradually easing the shutdown, he said they recommended enforcing area-based/district or cluster lockdown where the number of cases would be high. "We suggested keeping the district under lockdown where there are over a hundred corona positive cases and the village or lane where there are more than 10 cases. At the same time, people in those areas should undergo tests to detect the infected ones and send them to isolation."
"We won't be able to prevent the transmission of the virus unless we can identify the infected persons and keep them isolated from others. So, we must enhance our testing capacity immediately and carry out the subsequent activities," the expert suggested.
Dr Faisel said they also put forward specific date-wise suggestions for easing the shutdown in four stages-- after April 17, after Eid vacation, after the first week of June and finally after June 26, 2020.
"We think the infection rate will fall towards the end of June next, but we won't be able to eliminate the virus completely until any vaccine is found. We couldn't eliminate the dengue, Chikungunya, TB and some other viral diseases. So, corona will remain, but gradually people's antibody will develop to resist it and we'll move to a "new normalcy," he concluded.
Contacted, Prof Dr Harun-or-Rashid, head of medicine department at Dhaka Community Medical College & Hospital (DCMCH), said different other groups have also made the similar projection and issued warning that the worst is yet to come. "If we don't strictly maintain social distance throughout May, things will get worse."
He said the government should now engage leading universities to increase the testing capacity alongside making the hospitals ready to deal with the situation as the cases will continue to grow in the coming weeks.