Bangladesh detects Indian variant, extends bar
Bangladesh has detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India, the country’s health directorate said on Saturday, prompting the government to keep its border sealed for another two weeks.
Six cases of the Indian variant had been detected in Bangladesh, Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the health directorate, told reporters.
“Two cases are confirmed to be of the Indian variant, and the others are quite close to it,” Sultana said, adding that they all recently returned from India and were in isolation.
“The Indian variant is highly contagious and people must be cautious and strictly follow health guidelines such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and washing hands,” she said.
The variant, named B.1.617, has reached at least 17 countries, from Britain and Iran to Switzerland, sparking global concern.
India, battling a devastating second wave of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums, on Saturday reported its highest ever single-day Covid-19 death toll.
Late in April, Bangladesh sealed its border with India for 14 days, though trade continues. The government on Saturday decided to extend the border closure for another 14 days after the variant was detected, a foreign ministry official said. Air travel has been suspended since April 14, when Bangladesh imposed a strict lockdown for a week. Since then, a loose lockdown has been in place to May 16.
Bangladesh’s second wave peaked around a month ago. Since then, daily infections have been declining, with 1,285 new cases reported on Saturday as well as 45 fatalities.
UK mutant hits Pak
A coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK now accounts for up to 70 per cent of Covid-19 infections across Pakistan, a research centre studying the disease in the country said on Saturday.
The country has imposed strict nationwide restrictions in the lead up to the Id ul-Fitr festival next week in a bid to control a spike in cases.
“There is a 60 per cent to 70 per cent prevalence of the UK variant in Pakistan (today),” Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry, director at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences , University of Karachi, said, adding that this figure was 2 per cent in January.
The “UK variant”, known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in Britain late last year, is believed to be more transmissible than other previously dominant coronavirus variants. Chaudhry added, however, that the Indian variant had not been detected in Pakistan yet.
Nepal is being overwhelmed by a Covid-19 surge as India’s outbreak spreads across South Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross said on Wednesday.
Nepal is now recording 57 times as many cases as a month ago, with 44 per cent of tests now coming back positive. “What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal’s future if we cannot contain this latest surge that is claiming more lives by the minute,” said Netra Prasad Timsina, chair of the Nepal Red Cross.