Tuesday, 18 January, 2022

Covidiots may fuel corona surge

Experts call for strict enforcement of mask use to check spread of Omicron

  • Mohammad Al Amin
  • 23 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
Covidiots may fuel corona surge

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As highly contagious Omicron variant of coronavirus has already been detected in the country, people’s apathy to adhere to health guidelines may fuel a surge in virus infections, fear health experts.

“Unfortunately, the people of our country seem to be reluctant to follow our 15-point health guideline. If such breach of the health rules continues, the situation may turn serious anytime like many other countries of the world,” Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun on Wednesday.

Mentioning that three cases of Omicron have so far been detected in the country, he said they have not got any evidence of community transmission of the new virus variant.

Noting that the current ‘stable’ coronavirus situation in the country may be the reason behind reluctance to maintain health guidelines, the DGHS chief said people will have to wear at least masks and take vaccine to prevent the deadly pathogen.

Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said there is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant. And it is more likely that people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 could be infected or reinfected.

“There can be no doubt that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries will lead to increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths,……..an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled,” he added.

According to media reports, tighter restrictions are being considered around the world as spiraling cases of the Omicron variant loom over the festive holiday period marking Christmas.

In such a situation, it is being noticed that people in Bangladesh are mostly neglecting health guidelines, including wearing face masks, washing hands with soap and maintaining physical distancing.

Many are venturing out frequently without wearing any mask while many others are not wearing masks properly and washing hands in offices, markets and other public places.

Visiting some big shopping malls and hospitals in Dhaka city, it was seen that most of the people have worn masks but they kept those on the chin instead of covering mouth and nose.

The picture of reluctance to maintain the safety protocols was prevalent in public transport as the transport workers and most of the passengers do not wear masks.

Talking to the Daily Sun, a number of people in the capital and other districts said they have lost their interest in following the preventive measures and adjusting to the current situation.

“I used to wear face mask though it was uncomfortable for me. The virus situation is now good in our country. So, I’ve stopped using the mask,” Monir Hossain, a resident of the capital’s Mirpur area, told the Daily Sun.

Rasel Khan, a private service holder hailing from Banani area, said he took precautionary measures at the onset of the pandemic but the awareness has only waned due to "pandemic fatigue".

Faruq Hossain, a resident of Santhia upazila in Pabna, said, “People usually don’t wear mask and wash hands in our area as they think coronavirus will not infect them in rural areas.”

Health experts said though the government has taken various steps, including intensifying screening in ports of entry, the Omicron variant may spread throughout the country as people are frequently entering the country from different countries, including African and European ones where the new virus variant is wrecking havoc.

Talking to the Daily Sun, Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said, “The government has taken various measures to prevent Omicron from spreading across the country. But it may sneak in anytime like other variants of the virus.”

“If people don’t follow the health guidelines properly, the Covid-19 will spread massively. It is essential to adhere to the health guidelines to prevent any variant of coronavirus,” he said.

On November 26 last, WHO designated Omicron or B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern.

It advised people to keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it is their turn.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Tuesday said Omicron has not yet spread in the country. “Necessary steps are being taken to check the spread of Omicron.”

“People are crowding different tourist spots, including Cox's Bazar, without wearing masks. They aren’t maintaining any Covid-19 safety protocol, raising the risk of the coronavirus infections,” he added.

Zahid Maleque asked the deputy commissioners and civil surgeons of all the districts to take steps so that people abide by safety protocols.

The DGHS on November 29 issued 15 guidelines that discouraged all types of public gatherings and asked to ensure all health guidelines, including wearing masks properly when outdoors.

The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 advised the government to intensify the safety measures, strengthen treatment facilities and limit public gatherings to check the new virus variant.