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Younger patients were largely surviving COVID in Bangladesh. Delta variant changes that

  • Obaidur Masum, Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-07-20 05:31:30 BdST

The mortality rate among younger COVID-19 patients was low in Bangladesh, but the Delta variant of the coronavirus has changed the picture as cases in the first 15 days of July have outnumbered the total infections of a whole month in the past during the pandemic.

“We were able to save COVID-19 patients’ lives after they had arrived early in the past. But now we can’t do anything. In some cases, it appears that we are losing the fight against the virus,” said a visibly frustrated Dr Ahmedul Kabir, secretary general at the Bangladesh Society of Medicine.

The more infectious Delta variant reaching the countryside and a rise in deaths among younger patients have worsened the situation, according to doctors.

Comparing the situation of this year with that one year ago, public health expert Dr Abu Jamil Faisel said the infections spread largely to the big cities, such as Dhaka and Chattogram, last year. This time the outbreak has spread to vast swathes outside the cities.

“There was a time when we used to say the elderly with comorbidities are dying mostly from the coronavirus. But now we see the younger patients are dying as well,” said Dr Kabir.

After record infections and deaths in April, June was the second cruellest month for Bangladesh since the coronavirus pandemic struck the country in March 2020.

After the second wave of infections had begun, the death toll in April was 2,404 among 147,837 coronavirus cases. The government confirmed 112,718 infections in June, with 1,884 deaths from COVID-19.

By the end of June, however, the infections and deaths shattered previous daily records as the outbreak surged in the rural areas with the spread of the highly

infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

In July, the daily counts increased by a record pace with 10,500 cases per day and more than 200 deaths almost all the days of the month.

In the first 18 days of the month, the caseload surged by total 190,731 with 3,391 deaths. Throughout July last year, Bangladesh recorded 1,264 deaths from COVID-19.

Asked why so many patients are dying this time, Dr Kabir said the Delta variant is more powerful than the original coronavirus, so the patients cannot be saved even after providing the treatments available so far.    

“The virus is damaging the lungs firstly.”

The number of deaths from COVID-19 was very high among those aged above 60 years but the gap is closing.

Bangladesh confirmed record 231 deaths from the disease in the daily count on Monday. As many 33 of them were aged between 41 and 50, and 43 were from the 51-60 age group.

The number of deaths among patients above 61 years old was 74. Among the total 18,125 deaths so far, 5,669 were from this age bracket.

As many as 4,348 were aged between 51 and 60 while 2,164 others were from the 41-50 age group.

“The most noticeable change in the current wave of infections is that it started in the border districts outside Dhaka,” said Dr Faisel.

“And the elderly were mostly infected last year, but this time the Delta strain is infecting younger people as well.”

The doctors, nurses and other health workers in Dhaka learnt many things from the first wave of infections last year, which are helping them tackling the situation this year, but the picture is different in the countryside, according to him.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Dhaka Division in June has dropped to 407 from 552 in the same month last year.

The fatalities, however, increased to 341 from 335 in Chattogram.

The rise in deaths has been rapid in other divisions.

Rajshahi recorded 349 deaths in June this year against 76 in the same month last year.   

 In Khulna, the monthly COVID death toll in June increased to 477 from 59 year on year.