A small number of people in border districts of Bangladesh can access Covid test daily due to the limited testing capacity while rural areas along border are witnessing a fresh surge in Covid cases.
RT-PCR samples have piled up in border divisions while negative antigen samples are not retested anymore in RT-PCR laboratories for identifying false negative cases amid a rapid increase in the daily test seekers.
The border divisions of Rajshahi, Khulna and Rangpur, the country’s latest Covid hotspots and home to over 5.5 crore people, can each conduct test of about 1,500 samples on average a day, including rapid antigen test.
Experts have, meanwhile, advised taking free Covid test facility at people’s doorstep, particularly in the border regions, in order to break the chain of the viral disease’s transmission, which the government has so far failed to do.
On Friday Bangladesh’s daily test positivity rate crossed the mark of 18 per cent for the first time in 61 days as daily cases in border districts, especially in villages, set new records.
‘On Thursday about 600 RT-PCR samples remained untested,’ said Sabera Gul Nahar who teaches microbiology at Rajshahi Medical College and is in charge of the RT-PCR laboratory at the hospital associated with the medical college.
Collected samples have been outweighing the daily testing capacity of RMCH, the centre point of Covid treatment in Rajshahi, every day over the last two weeks, prompting authorities to divert samples to other districts or to the capital.
On June 9 Rajshahi City Corporation opened 12 booths for collecting 1,000 samples for antigen tests each day. The booths reached their daily sample collection target even before noon every day it operated.
‘We are considering increasing our antigen test capacity soon,’ said RCC public relations officer Mustafiz Mishu.
The Directorate General of Health Services over the last two weeks has repeatedly claimed that tests have been made free in border areas but people continued to pay for RT-PCR tests, some even for rapid antigen tests.
‘No test is free. We are taking Tk 100 for rapid antigen test as we need to retest negative samples in RT-PCR labs,’ said Khulna district civil surgeon Neaz Mohammad.
The DGHS has also claimed to have the minimum daily testing capacity of about 40,000 samples, the target that it has never achieved, not even after some divisions have continued to witness over 30 per cent positivity rate for over two weeks as studies suggested a widespread circulation of the delta variant.
The number of patients with Covid-19 or symptoms from different upazilas in Rajshahi district increased more than nine times in the first half of June compared with the combined count of Covid patients the upazilas reported in April and May.
A total of 760 patients from the upazilas in Rajshahi district contracted Covid-19 in June against 22 Covid cases in the upazilas in May and 60 cases in April, the Rajshahi civil surgeon office said.
The Kushtia civil surgeon office confirmed that they had counted the highest ever daily Covid cases of 156 on Thursday with 39 per cent test positivity.
The media also reported about Jashore witnessing its highest ever single-day infections with 291 confirmed Covid cases out of the 606 samples tested on Thursday.
‘Covid infections have spread to the corners of the Gopalganj sadar and Maksudpur municipalities and the Kahisyani union,’ said Gopalganj deputy commissioner Shahida Sultana, confirming that the areas have been on a weeklong lockdown since Friday.
On Friday the division-wise positivity rate was 40 per cent in Khulna, 34 per cent in Rangpur, about 18 per cent in Rajshahi, Sylhet and Mymensingh, about 15 per cent in Chattogram and Barishal and 11 per cent in Dhaka.
The increasing Covid cases have brought forth once again the poor capacity of Bangladesh to diagnose the disease. Only 40 out of the country’s 64 districts have RT-PCR laboratories, many of which are private.
There are 46 laboratories using the gene expert technology and 356 laboratories the rapid antigen technology.
Covid-19 has so far killed 13,399 people, with 54 deaths in the 24 hours until 8:00am Friday, since the disease emerged in Bangladesh on March 8, 2020.
A total of 20,882 tests were carried out during the 24 hours with 3,883 of them found infected with Covid-19.
So far 844,970 people in the country have contracted the disease and 778,421 have recovered, according to the DGHS.
Thirty-five of the fresh dead were men while the rest were women.
Fifty-one of the fresh deaths occurred in government hospitals, two in private hospitals and one at home, according to the DGHS health update.
Division-wise, the highest 15 deaths were reported from Chattogram, followed by Dhaka and Rajshahi with 12 deaths each, Khulna with eight deaths, Barishal with four deaths, Sylhet with two deaths and Mymensingh with one death.
By age, 26 of the deceased were above 60 years while 15 were between 51 years and 60 years, seven between 41 years and 50 years, five between 31 years and 40 years and one between 21 years and 30 years, said the update.
The New Age correspondent in Tangail reported that over 43 per cent of the 335 samples tested until Friday morning were found Covid-19 positive.
The district’s positivity rate was 36 per cent on Thursday.
Our Satkhira correspondent reported over 45 per cent test positivity rate in the district on Friday after 188 samples were tested.
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