DHAKA, Bangladesh

Hospitals in Bangladesh are fast running out of space to accommodate the burgeoning number of COVID-19 patients, the country’s main health authority said on Wednesday.

The government’s move to ease lockdown curbs for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha can push the COVID-19 situation in the largely unvaccinated nation to a point where it will be “almost impossible to control,” according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

A sweeping wave of the coronavirus Delta variant has sent daily infections and deaths skyrocketing in the country, leaving its strained healthcare system close to collapse.

There were 12,383 more infections and 210 fatalities reported over the past day, pushing the total close to 1.6 million and the death toll to 17,052.

According to data released by the DGHS, some 70% of beds – 10,467 out of 15,367 – for virus patients in public hospitals are currently occupied.

Similarly, almost 80% – 1,017 out of 1,275 – of dedicated intensive care units are also in use.

“The number of new coronavirus patients is alarmingly high and is rapidly outpacing the number of dedicated beds in our hospitals,” Dr. Md. Robed Amin, spokesperson for the DGHS, said in an online news conference.

“Just a few days back, we were confident enough to assure the public that we have thousands of beds ready for COVID-19 patients. However, within these past couple of days, most of the beds have been occupied and more people continue to be infected at an alarming proportion.”

Amin said authorities will be on high alert over the coming days, particularly as the government loosens lockdown restrictions for Eid al-Adha, due to be celebrated next week.

Bangladesh has been under a strict lockdown since July 1 but the curbs are set to be lifted from Wednesday midnight until the morning of July 23.

Previous trends suggest tens of thousands of people will travel from different urban centers, particularly the capital Dhaka, to celebrate the festival in their hometowns in rural areas.

“If instructions and safety guidelines are not followed, the coronavirus situation in Bangladesh will deteriorate even further. It will be almost impossible for us to control,” he warned.

The decision to lift restrictions for Eid al-Adha has also been opposed by the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19.

Bangladesh, a country of some 165 million, is lagging far behind in efforts to vaccinate citizens against the coronavirus.

Just over 10.7 million jabs, including first and second doses, have been administered in the country since the nationwide drive commenced in February.

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