Bangladesh among lowest testing countries

Manzur H Maswood | Published at 01:37am on April 19, 2020

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As of Saturday, the rate of tests per million in Bangladesh is 124, according to the data of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.

The current rate puts the country among the lowest COVID-19 testing countries.

Though there is a slight variance between the government figure and the pandemic data site Worldometer, which puts Bangladesh’s rate at 129 per million, Bangladesh is only above the three worst-preforming countries — North Korea, Nigeria and Myanmar.  

Nigeria conducted 35 people per million, Myanmar only tested 71 per million while this data on the military ruled North Korea was not shown on the Worldometer site.

The rate of testing per million people in neighbouring India, which is also among low testing countries, is 243 while Pakistan’s rate is 419, according to Worldometer.

Spain’s testing rate per million is 19,896, while the rate is 20,629 in Germany, 20,577 in Italy, 13,452 in Canada, 10,659 in South Korea, 10,815 in the USA and 6,783 in the UK, according to Worldometer data.

Bangladesh has continued ignoring the need for widespread testing of people to identify COVID-19 patients since its detection on March 8.

World Health Organisation suggests widespread tests while public health experts are campaigning for an increased number of tests, isolation of the positive patients alongside decreasing personal contact to prevent spread of the novel virus.

Bangladesh already registered 84 deaths and 2,144 infected patients with COVID-19. The transmission of the novel virus already spread to communities.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on March 16 said, ‘You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, and test. Test every suspected case.’

Health minister Zahid Maleque on Friday said in an online bulletin, ‘People are trying to hide themselves if they have infections, which is a cause for concern.’

However, news media’s version of test seekers trying to reach government hotline to get themselves screened contradicted the minister’s allegation that people were showing unwillingness to have tests.

IEDCR principal scientific officer ASM Alamgir also admitted that the test seekers have to wait for few days to get the samples due to the pressure of too many test seekers.

The government so far arranged 19 testing centres, most of them in early April.

As of Saturday, the test centres tested merely 21,191, according to the IEDCR.

Noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Nazrul Islam, said that the number of tests in Bangladesh was still low and that the actual picture about the prevalence of COVID-19 patients was still unknown.

He suggested that 10,000 people should be tested on a daily basis now to get the real picture of COVID-19 prevalence.