Bangladesh’s ‘Reactionary’ COVID-19 Response Is Working

In January, Bangladesh seemed to be doing well in terms of curbing the transmission of COVID-19. The infection rate was recorded at lower than 5 percent for seven weeks straight in mid-January, indicating a good response to the crisis according to World Health Organization guidelines, which consider the pandemic under control if infection rate remains below 5 percent for two consecutive weeks. The cases were dropping consistently, with February 26 seeing the lowest monthly recorded death toll of five.

The onslaught of the second wave started in mid-March when the number of daily recorded cases and deaths started rising sharply. According to Bangladesh’s leading health research institute, ICDDRB, between March 18-24, the Beta variant, originally detected in South Africa, was found in more than 80 percent of the samples tested. The Beta variant was first detected in Bangladesh on January 24.

By the beginning of April, however, pandemic fatigue had already set in among people. With Ramadan approaching, markets and public transportation were operating in full capacity with minimal compliance with social distancing and health guidance. By the time a strict lockdown was imposed on April 14 to curb the second wave, the country was already seeing around 6,000 to 7,000 daily cases, dramatically rising from daily recorded cases of about 500 the month prior. April 7 saw the highest daily recorded cases of 7,626 and April 19 marked 112 recorded deaths, the highest since March 2020, when the pandemic first hit the country.