India's surge in coronavirus cases is having a dangerous effect on neighboring Bangladesh. Health experts warn of imminent vaccine shortages just as the country should be stepping up its vaccination drive, and as more contagious virus variants are beginning to be detected. On Saturday, health authorities said that for the first time, a coronavirus variant originally identified in India was detected in Bangladesh, without providing further details, per the AP. For weeks, South African variants have dominated the samples sequenced in Bangladesh. There are concerns that these versions spread more easily and that first-generation vaccines could be less effective against them. Although the border with India is closed to people, goods continue to cross. Virus sequencing in Bangladesh, like other countries (including the US), has been scant. This means there could easily be blind spots.
"We can't rule out that the Indian variant would not make a new wave in Bangladesh. We have a porous border with India," says Dr. ASM Alamgir, a scientist with the government's Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control, and Research. A nationwide lockdown has been extended until at least May 16, but many businesses, markets, and transportation hubs remain crowded. Although intercity travel is banned, tens of thousands are expected to leave the capital of Dhaka for their home villages to celebrate next week's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. "If we fail to maintain safety procedures across the country, the virus will make its natural progression," Alamgir says. India, however, has banned the export of vaccines as it grapples with its own crisis. Bangladesh is seeking new avenues for vaccines, trying to produce Russian and Chinese vaccines by bringing tech from both nations. Bangladesh is expecting 500,000 doses of Chinese vaccines next week and has sought help from the US.
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