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Coronavirus in Bangladesh First coronavirus cases confirmed

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With the first cases of coronavirus confirmed in the country, the government's preparation to contain its spread still appears to be inadequate.

Many countries have already taken drastic measures while battling to contain its spread.

As Bangladesh recorded three cases of coronavirus, the government yesterday urged people not to panic and to consult physicians if they have fever, throat ache, dry cough, breathing difficulties or any other symptoms of coronavirus infection, said a PID handout.

Two men and a woman -- aged between 20 and 35 -- tested positive for the virus on Saturday, Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Diseases Control and Research (IEDCR), said yesterday. Two of them are from a family.

They are now undergoing treatment at a hospital in the capital, she said.

"Two of them returned to Bangladesh from Italy. The woman got infected from contact with one of them," Sabrina said.

"One had temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit, one had fever and cough and another had only cough. No special treatment is needed for them. They are being given treatment according to their symptoms. They will be kept in isolation until they recover fully."

Three more Bangladeshis who came in contact with them have been quarantined -- two in a hospital and one at home.

Italy placed up to 16 million people under quarantine as it battles to contain the spread of the virus.

Although officials are claiming that measures taken are adequate, bureaucratic tangles and lack of coordination will be a major challenge.

Many hospitals are yet to receive personal protective equipment (PPE) and other things needed for treating coronavirus infected patients, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Sources said, the government has supplied around 2,000 PPE to several hospitals.

"The situation is not that bad. Officials in hospitals that have no PPE will manage it locally. Maybe they will wear two aprons," DG of DGHS Prof AK Azad told The Daily Star last night.

A local company has started supplying PPE to the government, he said.

Prof Azad, however, didn't say how many PPEs would be supplied.

Sources said the government has around 3,000 test kits and many more will be needed.

"Since we had no confirmed cases before, the WHO didn't provide us with the equipment. Today [yesterday], we have talked to the WHO officials. They would provide those soon," Prof Azad added.

"The main problem with this new virus is it is highly contagious. No patient should be taken to a general hospital; they should be treated in facilities, may be makeshift one, dedicated only for Covid-19 patients," Prof Muzaherul Huq, founder of Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.

He added, "A single coronavirus patient will put other patients of the hospital at risk. It is a faulty and risky plan."

He added that a widespread awareness campaign should be launched immediately.

"Even the healthcare employees don't seem prepared," the former WHO regional director said.

He suggested that the government inform people about its response plans immediately so that people can prepare themselves.

"Even a single infection may pose a grave danger," added Prof Huq.

Prof Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said, "The government has formed a national advisory committee, but it has no virologist. It seems like the government has taken half-hearted measures."

Every student should know the latest information on how to stay safe by maintaining proper hygiene, he added.

The government has prepared a four-tier emergency response plan. The country is at level-2 after the cases were confirmed.

If the situation deteriorates and the country has more than 10 confirmed cases with more local transmissions in multiple areas, the emergency would be raised to level-3 and level-4 would mean there is an epidemic.

At level 3 or 4, the administration would lock down areas having high numbers of patients and quarantine the suspected cases.

Local schools, colleges and public institutions would be used as quarantine centres, while the isolation units at hospitals would handle severe cases.

"We have engaged representatives from all departments of the government. The law enforcing agencies would help implementing the plan," Prof Azad said.

He added that it was not necessary to admit all patients to hospitals as 82 percent of the cases are mild and can be treated at home.