Empty oxygen cylinders are piling up almost as fast as bodies in Khulna, which has become Bangladesh’s coronavirus hotspot in a dire new surge.
The government has ordered a strict week-long nationwide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, but Khulna’s hospitals can barely cope.
The southwestern district bordering India’s West Bengal state has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections blamed on the more contagious Delta variant, first detected in India.
On Thursday, Khulna city recorded 46 virus deaths, according to an official count, while in earlier waves, the daily death toll never went into double digits.
Most people in the city of 680,000 people say the new real toll is much higher and, according to reports, graveyards can barely cope with the number of dead in nearby cities such as Satkhira.
The main state-run Khulna general hospital is one of four in the city treating coronavirus patients and has 400 beds, but demand far outstrips supply.
Niaz Muhammad, the chief government doctor for the Khulna region, said they have dealt with enormous pressure in hospitals. He added that the situation is dire but denied there was an oxygen shortage.
Since Thursday, police, and troops have patrolled the streets across Bangladesh, home to 168 million people, to enforce the lockdown. Hundreds of people are arrested each day for leaving their homes.
In Khulna, restrictions on movement have been in place since last month, as the infection rate has soared.
The city’s factories are still open, and many people say they are forced to go out to work.
Officially, Bangladesh has recorded just over 935,000 cases and 14,900 deaths in the past 15 months, but most people say the figures are drastically under-reported.
Health officials blame the surge on people’s refusal to respect barrier measures such as wearing face masks or respecting the social distance.