The government’s top officials including the health minister assured people time and again that the testing facilities for COVID-19 is going to be decentralised with one new centres in each division, still the IEDCR lab in the capital is the key testing facility of the country.
The IEDCR is now struggling to cope with the rising number of people who come for testing on a daily basis.
‘We have shortage of manpower when it comes to collecting samples,’ said Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Meerjady Sabrina Flora.
‘A queue of people is waiting to be tested because we cannot collect samples of all of them every day,’ she told New Age.
Officials earlier complained about the shortage of testing kits as a reason of testing small number of people, but they were now saying that there was a shortage of personnel with the know-how to collect samples of novel coronavirus.
As of Saturday, the government tested merely 1,076 people to determine whether they had been infected by the novel coronavirus, of which 48 tested positive and five died.
On Saturday, no new cases were detected and no more death from COVID-19 was reported, according to IEDCR.
On March 21, health minister Zahid Maleque said at a press conference at the Directorate General of Health Services after a national committee meeting on coronavirus that the testing facilities for novel coronavirus would be installed at each division across the country.
IEDCR director Meerjady, who is also the COVID-19 spokesperson, has been still giving hopes for all necessary services.
In reality, only one test centre has been set up outside the capital so far, which is in Chattogram.
The test centre at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases Hospital in the port city so far tested eight people only. The lab was set up on Thursday.
The IEDCR director said on Thursday that two other testing centres were installed in the capital — one at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital and another at the Institute of Public Health. But none of the two tested a single suspected patient as of Saturday.
While speaking at the daily press conference, Management Information System director of the DGHS, Habibur Rahman, said on Saturday that seven to 10 more days are required for the government to install one testing facility at each division.
IEDCR officials said that they have now adequate testing kits and a kit can test 90 samples at a time within two to three hours.
But as the IEDCR cannot collect adequate number of samples every day, a small number of samples are tested each day, they said.
IEDCR director Meerjady said that community level transmission was occurring in the country.
People having symptoms of coronavirus died already in Khulna and doctors and nurses of Khulna Medical College Hospital were sent on quarantine, but the division has no testing facilities yet.
The authorities have also been selecting patients for testing in an arbitrary manner.
Despite the growing number of suspected COVID-19 patients across the country, the government conduct test on those who had symptoms after coming from abroad and who had a direct contact with a person who had arrived from abroad and had already tested positive.
The IEDCR has 22 sentinel sites across the country in charge of collecting samples from 64 districts, but the process takes a long time.
The samples are later sent to the IEDCR lab in the capital, which further cause delays to get test results.
Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Nazrul Islam said that the IEDCR alone was not capable of testing a large number of people and that was why many COVID-19 patients remained undetected.
‘Testing an increased number of suspected people is the key to preventing the spread of the highly contagious virus,’ he told New Age.
Former World Health Organisation regional adviser Muzaherul Huq said that the government should increase the capacity to test more people and isolate them if found positive for coronavirus.
‘But the government is not decentralising the testing facilities, raising the risks of the virus spread unknowingly,’ he said.
He suggested test centres be set up at all the medical college hospitals and big hospitals including the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
Muzaherul also said that the Icddr,b in the capital has the testing facilities, but it was not being used.
MIS director Habibur Rahman said that they started providing training to medical technologists about how to collect samples and how to test them.
‘Bangladesh’s preparation and activities are going on in right direction,’ he said.
New Age staff correspondent in Sylhet reported quoting divisional assistant director of health Anisur Rahman that running a test on any suspected patient in Sylhet required two to three days.
‘We have collected samples and sent them to the IEDCR, which takes even longer,’ Anisur said.
‘We heard that a testing facility would be installed in the division soon,’ he said.
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