Zahid Maleque asked for hospital beds to be readied, testing to be enhanced and central oxygen to be arranged to deal with the second wave of the virus
Health Minister Dr Zahid Maleque has said Covid-19 infections and fatalities are witnessing a fresh surge, as the public is not abiding by health guidelines.
"We are getting somewhat reckless. We are not using masks. We have become overconfident. A few days ago, I saw lakhs of people in Cox's Bazar. The novel coronavirus infection rate is increasing because of this," he added.
He said this while addressing a programme on facing the second wave of novel coronavirus infections and obtaining a vaccine at the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital on Sunday afternoon. The event was organised by the Bangladesh Private Medical College Association (BPMCA).
The health minister said hospital beds need to be readied to deal with the second wave. Testing arrangements need to be further enhanced, while central oxygen needs to be arranged, he added.
He also mentioned that the people are being fined for not wearing face masks. "We do not want to hurt people. We want to make them aware."
"If millions of people are infected and try to go to hospitals, no country in the world can tackle that pressure. Bangladesh also does not have the capacity to do so," he continued.
Addressing the owners of private hospitals, the minister said, "You have talked about tax benefits for importing machinery. We will do whatever we can so that you get tax benefits. However, there is only a condition – you have to treat Covid-19, non-Covid-19 and dengue patients. Preparations need to be made if the second wave strikes in a colossal manner."
Private hospitals have 1,200 or 10% of 10,000 beds for Covid-19 patients. The minister suggested raising the ratio to 20% and doubling the number of ICU beds.
"Vaccines are being developed. Once they are approved by the World Health Organisation, Bangladesh will get them in the first phase," Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Malek said, adding that arrangements will be made for private hospitals apart from government hospitals.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the health directorate, said it has already been planned to whom and how the vaccine will be distributed. "Not everyone will get the vaccine at the same time. Everyone will get it step by step," he maintained.
Khurshid Alam called for lowering the cost of Covid-19 tests in private hospitals.
Presenting the keynote paper at the event, BPMCA President MA Mubin Khan said the capacity of hospitals needs to be enhanced. If the situation worsens, there may be a partnership with the government, he added.
He called for offering duty-free facilities on the import of essential Covid-19 treatment equipment, including CT scan machines and reagents.
He also opined that patients could have a huge relief if the private sector were given the opportunity to import antigen and antibody kits.
Preeti Chakraborty, chairman of Universal Medical College said novel coronavirus patients are coming to the hospital at the very last stage. Many do not even want to admit they are infected. "I think it will be possible to further reduce the death rate if patients come to hospitals early," he said.