new coronavirus infections nearly quintupled over the past month.

The coronavirus has silenced even Dhaka’s cacophony.

The notoriously traffic-clogged streets of Bangladesh’s capital were eerily empty Thursday, save for soldiers on patrol on the first day of a national lockdown imposed after daily tallies of new coronavirus infections nearly quintupled over the past month.

Fueled by the delta variant first detected in neighboring India, this is Bangladesh’s third COVID-19 wave. It has hit fast on the heels of a springtime second wave, and during a shortage in vaccine doses. In some poorer countries with low vaccination rates, like Bangladesh, coronavirus cases are surging, even as Western nations open up.

“There will be a fourth wave, and there will be a fifth wave, before we can vaccinate everyone — while rich countries are lifting lockdowns and even giving people booster doses,” says Senjuti Saha, a Dhaka-based microbiologist and public health activist at the Child Health Research Foundation. She herself has been unable to get vaccinated, despite being classified as an essential health worker. “We will be stuck in this vicious cycle — more infections, more mutations, more variants — and we are scared.”

Less than 3% of Bangladeshis are fully vaccinated.

On Thursday, troops in camouflage and surgical masks set up barricades in Dhaka and used megaphones to order residents into their homes for at least seven days.

Nationwide, private offices, shopping malls, cinemas and markets are closed. Public transit is halted, and gatherings banned. Police warned that anyone caught violating the stay-at-home order — except for essential trips to access food or medicine — would be arrested. Local media reported more than 70 arrests by midday Thursday.

Only essential industries — including Bangladesh’s textile factories, which have been an engine of its economy — are allowed to stay open, with social-distancing and temperature checks for workers.

On Thursday, the government confirmed 8,822 new coronavirus infections — a nearly fivefold increase from 1,765 cases on June 1. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have nearly tripled over the same period. Wednesday’s single-day death toll — 115 — was one of Bangladesh’s highest since the pandemic began.

That brings the total figures to 14,646 deaths and 921,559 confirmed cases since the start of Bangladesh’s outbreak, according to the country’s health services.

Comments are closed