Bangladesh crossed the grim milestone of 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday as it logged 3,803 new infections along with 38 deaths.
Authorities warned that the virus could linger for much longer as a public health threat, as the South Asian country broke the mark more than two and a half months after its first COVID-19 case was detected in early March.
“The country may not get rid of COVID-19 in next two or three months and it is likely to exist for next two to three years or even more,” Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, chief of the Directorate General of Health Services, told reporters during a daily briefing.
Azad, who participated in Thursday’s briefing after recovering from the coronavirus disease himself, said the government had no choice but to restart the economy even though the number of cases continued to rise because the stalled economy was hurting people. He was referring to the government’s move on May 31 to lift a COVID-19 shutdown that had been in place since the end of March. However, schools across the country remain closed.
“The government has to work to balance life and livelihood,” he said.
“The government is working to extend the number of testing facilities and simple alternative measures to detect COVID-19 will be taken,” Azad said, adding that those alternatives would be implemented in rural hospitals.
Throughout June, Bangladesh has seen a steep uptick in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths nationwide. Experts fear that the recent increases do not show any sign of flattening the coronavirus curve to allow life to return to normal.
“People in every nook and corner of the country are now carrying the virus, so the detection of the cases will certainly increase,” Dr. A.B.M. Abdullah, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s personal physician, told BenarNews.
“We are advancing toward a deadly situation as the medical centers will not be able to handle so many patients if the trend continues,” he said. “Patients will die on the roads or in ambulances so, we should be serious about prevention rather than finding a cure.”
On Thursday, the number of confirmed cases reached 102,292 and the death toll reached 1,343, said Nasima Sultana, an additional director general at the Directorate of Health.
Health analyst Dr. Rashid E. Mahbub said it was hard to predict the path of COVID-19 or how long it would be active in Bangladesh.
“We need to break the chain to contain the spread so lockdowns in areas where the number is zooming are necessary,” he told BenarNews.
The more than 1,300 people who have died after being infected include medical personnel, police and public officials.
“A total of 41 physicians have died of COVID-19 as Dr. Rafiqul Haider of Enam Medical College and Hospital was added to the list today,” Dr. Nirupam Das, coordinator of the Bangladesh Doctors Foundation, told BenarNews on Thursday. “At least 1,042 physicians have been infected with the virus.”
Officials reported that more than 8,000 police officers had been infected and 27 had died, while three Rohingya refugees had succumbed to COVID-19.
Among the public officials who died from coronavirus complications were Mohammed Nasim, former health minister and presidium member of the ruling Awami League; Sheikh Md Abdullah, incumbent state minister for religious affairs; and Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, former mayor of Sylhet City Corp. Others killed by COVID-19 included former officials Anwarul Kabir, Kamrun Nahar and Haji Mokbul Hossain.
Globally, the COVID-19 death toll topped 450,000 and infections topped 8.4 million as of Thursday, according to according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Digital Security Act violations
Meanwhile on Thursday, police arrested university professor Kazi Zahidur Rahman under the Digital Security Act (DSA) over an online post that criticized Nasim, who died on June 13. The government arrested another university professor and students over similar allegations, according to officials.
“At least nine cases have been filed under DSA after the death Mohammad Nasim as people started to criticize the failure of Awami League government and alleged corruption by the former health minister,” social activist Marjia Prova told BenarNews.
“At least 80 cases have been filed against people, mostly for criticizing the government and its leaders during four months of the pandemic. At least 162 people including 38 journalists have been accused in 85 DSA cases filed since January.”
Abdur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.