4 universities struggle to continue COVID-19 tests

Ershad Kamol | Published: 01:21, Oct 20,2020


Four public universities are struggling to continue COVID-19 tests at their laboratories as they are not getting any fund from the government to purchase reagents and provide food and isolation centres to the volunteers.

Vice-chancellors and registrars of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Jessore University of Science and Technology, Noakhali Science and Technology University and Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University told New Age that they had to count from Tk three lakh to Tk 10 lakh per month for running their labs with own funds.

Except Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, three other universities had to spend over Tk 50 lakh extra for developing their laboratories to test for COVID-19 virus, officials of the universities said.

For fund shortage, Dhaka University stopped its COVID-19 testing lab in June.

At present 110 labs are testing COVID-19 samples across the country, according to the health ministry.

SUST vice-chancellor Professor Farid Uddin Ahmed said that the university had to spend Tk 1.10 crore for developing a bio-safety lab in April with its own fund.

‘We have obtained only testing kits from the Directorate General of Health Services. But we need to pay Tk 10 lakh per month to operate the lab and provide food and isolation centre to its 22 volunteers, including teachers, students and employees,’ Farid said.

He claimed that the university’s lab tests up to 500 samples from Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj and Moulvibazar per day.

‘We are allocating the fund from our own budget for the welfare of the people. We have also requested the University Grants Commission to financially help us,’ he added.

Jessore University of Science and Technology vice-chancellor Professor Md Anwar Hossain said that the university spent Tk 60 lakh for equipping their COVID-19 lab with two PCR machines.

‘We have been spending Tk 3.5 lakh, on average, extra per month since April for the operation of the lab to test samples collected from Jashore, Magura, Jhinaidah and Narail,’ he said.

The university, he claimed, was also developing cheaper testing methods.

UGC director Md Kamal Hossain said that the commission was also convinced that the universities should get extra fund for operating the labs especially when the COVID-19 prevalence in the country was expected to rise in the upcoming winter.

‘Transferring fund from one sector to another also creates room for audit objections. And so on Sunday we sent a letter requesting the education ministry to allocate Tk 90 lakh for operating labs at the four universities till next February,’ he said.

Deputy education minister Mohibul Hassan Choudhury said that the ministry would consider the issue after consulting the health ministry.

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