Bangladesh PM for 1,000 tests daily

Manzur H Maswood and Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 15:45, Apr 02,2020 | Updated: 00:34, Apr 03,2020


Prime minister Sheikh Hasina. -- New Age file photo

Amid a growing cry for widespread testing of people with suspected COVID-19, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday ordered conducting of at least 1,000 tests per day.

‘The prime minister has ordered us to conduct at least 1,000 coronavirus tests per day, including two samples from each upazila,’ said Health Services director Habibur Rahman at the daily press conference on the coronavirus situation Thursday afternoon.

‘We will carry out the tests as 10 laboratories – six in the capital and four in various divisions – have been prepared for testing COVID-19 samples,’ he said.

Later in the evening, Habibur told New Age that the letters for collecting samples were sent out to the districts in the day following the PM’s directive and that the collection of the increased number of samples would start from today.

The Health Services, in an emergency statement Thursday evening, said that the prime minister’s order of collecting two samples from each upazila was presented wrongly in the regular briefing.

Actually in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office it was suggested that samples from various corners of the country be collected for the examination to have a more accurate idea about the

coronavirus infection, the statement said.

The statement said that a total of 467 samples were collected from 40 districts until 7:00pm on Thursday.

Bangladesh has already confirmed 56 COVID-19 patients, six of whom

have died.

The government testing facilities still remain limited, raising questions by public health experts about the actual number of infected patients across the country. 

So far, 1,896 people have been tested, although the number of test seekers is growing and many people have recently been dying with coronavirus symptoms.

The sources of infection in seven people have also remained undetected, which IEDCR director Meerjady Sabrian Flora has attributed to ‘limited-scale community transmission’.

The World Health Organisation emphasises ‘tests, tests and tests’ as the means of identifying COVID-19 patients and isolating

them to prevent the spread of the highly contagious deadly virus.

WHO’s former regional adviser Muzaherul Huq told New Age that the actual picture of the COVID-19 infection in Bangladesh was unknown, adding that many suspected coronavirus patients remained untested due to the government’s strategy of testing a limited number of people.

‘It will be disastrous if infected people have spread  among communities,’ he said.

The government is advising people to contact the IEDCR or the designated call centres if they have found COVID-19 symptoms in them but the response from the government is still minimal, Muzaherul said.

Top government health officials are repeatedly discouraging people from going to hospitals or the test centres in person as infected people would spread the disease to others on the way to health facilities.

Although over 10.42 lakh people have called the hotlines until now, only 1,896 suspected COVID-19 patients have been tested so far, according to the Health Services.

Health secretary Ashadul Islam said Wednesday evening that the number of tests would be significantly increased as the installation of the planned 28 tests centres were completed across the country within a short time.

As of Thursday evening, only six tests centres were conducting coronavirus tests — five in the capital and one in the port city of Chattogram.

Six other centres — three in the capital and one each in Rajshahi, Rangpur and Mymensingh divisional cities — were prepared for carrying out the tests, according to the government’s COVID-19 control room.

Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Nazrul Islam welcomed the prime minister’s directive to test at least 1,000 people each day.

‘The implementation of this order would help us to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 patients in the country,’ he told New Age.

Nazrul said that the death rate from COVID-19 in Bangladesh is over 10 per cent because of the low number of infected cases identified.

Ascertaining the prevalence of the menace through widespread tests will also help the infected people get treatment at the dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, he said.

He added that many fever and asthma patients were also being denied treatment and shuttling from one hospital to another in such a situation was also causing patients to die.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on Wednesday started collecting coronavirus samples for testing.

As of Thursday, the DMCH collected eight samples and the BSMMU 18 samples.

DMCH virology department chairman Sultana Shahana said that the eight samples it collected were from patients admitted to the isolation unit of the hospital.

She said that the Health Services provided them with 300 testing kits and they were planning to collect samples from patients visiting the outpatient department too.

BSMMU virology department head Saif Uddin Munshi said that they received 240 kits from the Health Services and tested 18 samples till Thursday.

‘We collected the samples from patients undergoing treatment at our hospital. The results have been sent to the IEDRC,’ Munshi added.  

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email