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Health experts warn of 'catastrophic' superspreader event after Bangladesh lifts social distancing for Muslim holiday

Photo by Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Public health experts are bracing for what could be a "catastrophic" superspreader event after the nation of Bangladesh lifted social distancing guidelines so that Muslims could celebrate a religious holiday.

"We may not actually avoid a catastrophic situation," said Be-Nazir Ahmed, a public health expert and former chief of the government's Health Directorate, to the Associated Press.

The nation of 163 million people, with 90% of them Muslim, announced that its lockdown would be lifted for eight days in order to celebrate the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.

Daily new cases of coronavirus are skyrocketing to nearly 14,000, far surpassing the previous peak of about 7,000 daily cases in April. Deaths have also reached a high of 230 per day after previously rising to a peak of 100 deaths in April.

Experts warn the pause in the lockdown for a religious celebration could exacerbate the health crisis.

"Already there is a scarcity of beds, ICUs, while our health care providers are exhausted," Ahmed said. "So if the situation worsens and more patients come to hospitals, it will be near impossible to deal with the crisis."

The country has been on a strict lockdown since July 1, but officials relented and lifted the restrictions from July 15-23.

Ahmed fears that millions of Muslims are at risk of contracting and spreading the virus as they shop for the holiday.

"Maybe hundreds of thousands of cattle markets will be arranged throughout the country starting from remote village up to city, and the cattle sellers and others engaged in the business are mainly coming from rural areas, and possibly they will bring virus with them," he explained.

Ahmed estimates that 30 million to 40 million people will gather Wednesday for prayers. The month after the festival will be a critical time for a country, which has had nearly 1.1 million infections and nearly 18,000 deaths from the pandemic, he said.

"The Eid congregations are going to be a superspreading event," he warned.

Here's a news report about the lockdown pause in Bangladesh:

Coronavirus Update: Bangladesh to ease restrictions despite record infections | Latest English News

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