Bangladesh is among the top three worst affected countries in South Asia, yet it is in the list of the lowest testing countries in the region 48 days into the outbreak.
Countries like Bhutan, Vietnam and Nepal are the least affected countries but they are in the list of top countries that are conducting more tests.
The COVID-19 scenario in the South Asian countries shows that a high number of cases suggests a low test rate and vice versa.
As of Saturday, Bangladesh registered 4,998 COVID-19 patients with 140 deaths, which places it among the top three countries in South Asia which have the most cases. India is in the list of highest cases with 24,530 patients and 780 deaths and Pakistan in the second position with 11,940 cases and 253 deaths, according to the COVID-19 statistics of worldometers.info.
Among the least affected countries in the region, two tourists crowding countries — Bhutan and Nepal — performed the best as Bhutan has merely 7 cases with no death and Nepal 49 cases with no death. Other least affected countries are — Maldives (129 cases and no death), Myanmar (144 cases with five deaths) and Vietnam (270 cases with no death).
Despite the low number of patients in Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam and Maldives, these countries continued widespread tests of suspected COVID-19 patients.
On the contrary, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh conducted the lowest number tests per million people despite the high number of infected patients.
Bhutan ranked top in the rate of testing per million population with 11,603, while Maldives’ rate per million tests is 9,798, Vietnam’s 2,119 and Nepal’s 1,630 per million.
Bangladesh is third among the least tested countries with 240 tests per million population and only above Afghanistan (165) and Myanmar (113) in the region.
The rate of test per million in India is 420 while it is also 625 in Pakistan.
Another factor is that Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam are the top three countries to continue testing many people despite getting a low number of positive for COVID-19.
Bhutan identified one infected case per 1,279 tests while Nepal found one case per 969 tests and Vietnam found one case per 763 tests.
On the other hand, Bangladesh is second on the list of the least testing per confirmed cases and only above Afghanistan while India and Pakistan remained in third and fourth position for the least tests per confirmed cases.
One patient was confirmed in Bangladesh after testing 8 people while Pakistan tested 11 people and India 23 for each confirmed case.
Health minister Zahid Maleque on Thursday said that the COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh was far better than the USA and the European countries in terms of cases and deaths.
But public health experts said that Bangladesh did not conduct widespread tests and many people remained undetected due to the low test rate.
At least 10,000 people should be tested every day, but the tests are still around 3,000 per day, said virologist Nazrul Islam.
‘With the current rate of testing in Bangladesh, we can only confirm that the infections with COVID-19 are continuing but we cannot confirm the actual prevalence of COVID-19 patients in the country,’ said Nazrul, also former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
He also said that testing of patients needed to be done proportionately from all geographical regions.
‘We are getting more patients in the capital city of Dhaka and the districts around Dhaka as the large number of tests are being done in these areas, but we are still unaware whether the samples are being collected from all the regions,’ he said.
Bangladesh delayed in starting large number of testing, although widespread testing was recommended by the World Health Organisation to identify patients and isolate them to prevent spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research was the only testing agency till late March and now the number of labs were increased to 23, including two on Saturday.
So far, 39,427 people were tested across the country since January 21 after the novel coronavirus spread from China in December.
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