Bangladesh will launch the antigen test to detect COVID-19 from Saturday at 10 government hospitals.
Directorate General of Health Services director Habibur Rahman said that the test would begin in Panchagarh, Gaibandha, Meherpur, Mushiganj, Brahmanbaria, Jaipurhat, Patuakhali, Jashore, Madaripur and Sylhet.
The government on September 17 approved the rapid antigen test for the detection of COVID-19.
Habibur said that antigen kits, developed by South Korea’s SD Bisensor, were procured by the Central Medical Storage Depot of the DGHS.
The CMSD applied the direct procurement method to buy the kits considering the emergency, he said, declining to name the supplier and disclose the price.
Around two lakh kits are in the stock of the government and one lakh have been sent to the 10 districts, Habibur said.
Around 2.5 lakh others are in the pipeline, he added.
Local entity Gonoshasthaya Kendra has developed antibody and antigen kits, but the government has neither approved these nor permitted the private health facilities to use the GK kits.
The country has been going through the COVID-19 onslaught since March, but is still dependent on merely over a hundred RT-PCR labs for its 17 crore population, making the test process expensive and time-consuming thereby delaying detections, isolation as well as the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
On July 5, the DGHS wrote to the health ministry to allow antigen-based COVID-19 testing although the country has been experiencing community transmission since April.
The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 also recommended the rapid test several times.
The health ministry on September 17 directed the DGHS to begin the test at the government health facilities, without selecting and procuring necessary kits.
Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection.
Antigen tests are relatively inexpensive and can be used at the point of care. The result comes out in approximately 15-30 minutes, whereas the RT-PCR tests results need from a few days to weeks to be known.
Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, are generally less sensitive than viral tests.
But rapid antigen tests can be used for screening in high-risk congregate settings in which repeat testing could quickly identify persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection to inform infection prevention and control measures, thus preventing transmission.
Antigen tests are performed in many countries, including the USA, Europe and India, but Bangladesh wasted time over the approval of these tests.
Bangladesh has so far tallied around 4.70 lakh COVID-19 cases, with nearly 7,000 deaths.
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