‘The tip of the iceberg’: Bangladesh weekly COVID cases surge by 181%

Bangladesh’s coronavirus cases have spiked by nearly 181 percent week on week, but experts believe the data is just “the tip of the iceberg” because many patients with milder symptoms from the omicron variant are not getting tested.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 23 Jan 2022, 10:01 PM
Updated : 23 Jan 2022, 10:01 PM

Deaths from COVID-19 are also rising at an alarming rate and the experts fear the fatality rate will increase further due to the surge in infections. 

Bangladesh on Sunday reported 10,906 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily count since Aug 10 last year, taking the total caseload to 1,685,136.

The death toll rose to 28,223 as 14 more patients died from COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8am on Sunday.

As many as 34,854 samples were tested across the country, for a positivity rate of 31.29 percent - the highest in about half a year, forcing the government to order all offices to operate with the physical presence of 50 percent employees, starting on Monday. A shutdown of schools and colleges was announced on Friday.

According to data published by the Directorate General of Health Services, 67,425 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the seven days to Sunday. In the week before that, the number of confirmed infections was 24,011, meaning cases rose by 43,414 or 180.81 percent week on week.

The weekly deaths also increased to 79 from 42 – a nearly 90 percent rise.

Dr Be-nazir Ahmed, a former director of the directorate’s disease control wing, said the current case scenario is worse than that of July-August last year when the deadly delta variant caused a wave of infections, but the data does not paint the actual situation on the ground.

“People are not getting tests or hospitalised when they are contracting the omicron variant. Because some are developing milder symptoms, such as a runny nose, some only have cough. All members of many families have been infected, but only one got the test.”

He believes coronavirus cases in the latest wave will peak in Bangladesh in the next few days, but the data will not reflect the real picture. “The number of unreported cases is far greater this time. The figure we’ve got is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Dr Mushtuq Husain, former chief scientific officer at the government’s disease control agency IEDCR, said the deaths from COVID now are happening among patients who were infected three weeks ago. “We'll know how many will die from the current patients after three more weeks.”

He fears a low vaccination rate put Bangladesh at risk of seeing bigger numbers of deaths in the coming days. If infections rise rapidly with fewer hospitalisations and less hospitalisation due to omicron, the fatality rate may remain low, but the toll will increase, he said.