DHAKA, Bangladesh

As the omicron variant triggered a spike in infections, Bangladesh recorded 34 new coronavirus deaths, the highest in four months, according to the country’s Health Ministry on Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital Dhaka on Sunday, Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the real picture is grimmer than the official data, adding more infections and casualties would be reported if more people are tested.

Bangladesh reported 12,183 fresh cases on Sunday, taking the caseload to 1.78 million and the total fatalities to 28,363. The daily positivity rate was 28.33%, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

“It would not be wise to take the omicron variant lightly. The new variant caused a 20-time rise in infections and a four-time spike in coronavirus-related deaths. The situation is alarming,” the minister said.

The health minister also warned students to stay home as the government has shut school campuses amid the new surge in infection.

“We have been vaccinating students aged 12 and above. Now it is open to everyone,” the minister announced, further lowering the age for booster doses to 40 years from 50.

“Before the omicron hit Bangladesh, there were 400 to 500 patients admitted to hospitals. Now the number has reached some 3,000, and if the situation continues it would create immense pressure on the country’s health system,” he warned.

According to the DGHS, some 97 million people have taken the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 61 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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