Rapid test kits illegally imported by politicians raise concerns

Emran Hossain | Published: 01:40, Apr 06,2020


Some ruling party politicians are illegally importing Chinese-made rapid test kits taking personal initiatives as the government has been struggling to carry out adequate number tests for detecting COVID-19.

The drug administration and virologists warned that such imports might bear disastrous consequences with high error rates with rapid test kits.

But some AL leaders continued to distribute imported rapid test kits at hospitals although it was reported that Chinese-made rapid test kits supplied by 3rd party in countries such as Spain led to large-scale wrong diagnosis. After poor accuracy such kits were also withdrawn.

‘I am trying to help the people with my personal resources,’ said Gazipur City Corporation mayor Jahangir Alam, also general secretary of Gazipur city unit of AL, who imported 40,000 rapid test kits in phases last month and claimed to have donated them to hospitals in Gazipur and Dhaka.

Asked if he had permission to import the test kits, he said that the country was in an emergency situation with the laws were relaxed for smooth execution of steps necessary to fight off the new coronavirus.

Drug administration director general Mahbubur Rahman said that the government decided not to allow rapid test kits to be used in COVID-19 diagnosis for it can produce false results.

‘We have not permitted any such imports,’ said Mahbub.

The rapid test kit changes colour in just 10 to 15 minutes after a drop of blood is allowed to drip into it to indicate infection, virologists said.

Health Services additional director general Nasima Sultana said that rapid tests are inaccurate in 80 per cent of the time.

‘Rapid antibody test has not been approved in any SAARC countries,’ said Nasima.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s virology department’s associate professor Monira Pervin said that the body’s immune system takes about five to seven days to create antibody and there is a chance that a rapid antibody test can come out negative while the infected person is still carrying the new coronavirus.

‘Rapid antibody tests can give a false picture and help the new coronavirus spread silently,’ she warned.

The test the government undertakes using a machine known as PCR takes four hours to confirm the presence of the virus in nasal and throat swabs.

Bangladesh tested only 2,547 suspected patients since January 21 of which 70 were found infected and nine of them died.

GCC mayor Jahangir said that a rapid test kit may cost from $10 to $20 and that he had placed orders to import more Chinese kits.

‘I will have them airlifted if regular flights are not resumed,’ he said. 

Information and communication technology state minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak donated 200 rapid test kits imported from China to Singra upazila health complex in Natore, according to the upazila health officer Aminul Islam.

‘We contacted IEDCR for instructions for what to do with these kits and are under the impression that we may need to use them in case of the COVID-19 situation taking a serious turn,’ said Aminul.

Palak never returned calls for comments over the matter after his personal secretary promised to convey New Age request to him.

International media is flooded with reports of countries such as Spain, Czech Republic, Georgia and Malaysia complaining about rapid test kits sourced from China for being low quality.

Spain has returned thousands of test kits back to China.

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