Dengue crisis worsens in Dhaka as Eid leave canceled

A child suffering from dengue fever rests at a hospital in Dhaka. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019

Dengue crisis worsens in Dhaka as Eid leave canceled

  • Nearly 46,000 patients have been admitted to hospitals across Bangladesh with the virus

DHAKA: Doctors and nurses in Dhaka are working to treat dengue patients after authorities canceled Eid leave for all medical staff on Wednesday.

Nearly 46,000 patients have been admitted to hospitals across Bangladesh with the virus.

In the past 24 hours, 1,880 new cases were admitted to hospital, while more than 4,000 are being treated in Dhaka alone. Death toll estimates, meanwhile, range from 40 to 90 people.

Dengue spreads among humans through its carrier, the aedes mosquito.

From July to September, during the monsoon season, it spreads rapidly as the mosquitos breed. 

The first recorded case of the disease in Bangladesh was in 1965, with the worst previous outbreak affecting the country in 2000.

The current outbreak started in Dhaka last July.

Several government hospitals have already added new dengue wards to accommodate patients but this has still proved inadequate.

“On Eid day, I rushed to the hospital after the Eid prayer and had a very busy day treating patients,” Prof. Syed Shafi Ahmed, director of the Dhaka Children’s Hospital, told Arab News.

“I fear that within next couple of days, again we will have a huge number of dengue victims when people return to Dhaka (from Eid vacations),” he added.

Many employees have had their personal Eid leave cancelled to deal with the outbreak.

“Usually we don’t perform any duties during Eid vacations. For the first time, I have been serving at my hospital for the well-being of the patients,” said Saleha Khatun, a senior nurse at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.

“My four-year-old son Ayman got affected by fever just before the Eid day. I was worried about the treatment process and availability of doctors as it’s a vacation period,” Dhaka resident Prema Chowdhury said. 

“On Eid day morning I rushed to the hospital with my son and after immediate tests he was diagnosed with dengue. Doctors admitted him and after 2 days, my son is doing better.”

Doctors have warned people to be more cautious about taking other medicines if they are diagnosed with the disease.

“Any medicine like steroids or others may aggravate the impact of the dengue virus for any patient. In case of fever in this season, the best solution is to have enough water and liquid drinks like fruit juice,” Dr. Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research, told Arab News.

“At the moment Bangladesh is fully equipped to deal with dengue as we have already prepared a national guideline about the treatment process of patients. In Dhaka, which is the most affected city, around 2,000 doctors and nurses have already been trained to deal with it,” Dr. M. M. Aktaruzzaman, dengue program manager of Directorate General of Health, told Arab News.

Until last year, the highest number of dengue patients in a single year was recorded at around 10,000. 

But this year it is already close to 50,000, with half of the monsoon season still to come, worrying health professionals across the country.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.