Testing still low against target


Staff Reporter :
Bangladesh remains at the bottom among the South Asian countries in terms of the number of Covid-19 tests although the testing facilities have already expanded across the country.
A total of 17,999 samples were tested in 66 labs across the country in the last 24 hours, said Dr Nasima Sultana, Additional Director General (Administration) of DGHS, in a briefing.
Her statement came at a time when kit crisis has been reported in various media outlets.
Earlier on Wednesday DGHS officials said they tested total 16433 samples in 24 hours.
But the health experts said that the authorities concerned were not testing enough people taking the country's high population density into consideration. The number of daily tests still hovers around 17,000, although it should be at least 20,000.
As of yesterday, the country tested 678,443 samples, shows data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHSs).
Abdul Malek Ukil Medical College in Noakhali restarted the testing of the samples on June 23 after suspended for three days due to the shortage of the kits.
The 300-bed government hospital in Narayanganj suspended testing for five days from June 18 amid kit shortage. But they restarted the testing on June 22 after getting the supply of the kit.
 "We have the capacity to test 280 samples per day. The demand is huge, but we cannot meet it because of the crisis of kits," said Dr Mohammad Imtiaz, Civil Surgeon of Narayanganj.
The Hospital received 1,920 kits on June 24, which would last for a week and officials have already asked for more, he added. Faridpur Medical College Hospital will be able to test only 524 samples with the kits they have already in hand, said Md Ashraful Alam, a member of the Lab Committee of the hospital and a Professor of the Microbiology Department adding that they could run only one more day with the stored kits.
Health Directorate is saying that the machines which perform PCR test in the country support only yellow kits. The test will not run with any other kit other than the yellow kits. Bangladesh collects kits from China, the authorities have fallen into the crisis as the importers could not imported the kits properly.
But the importing of the yellow kits has been stopped for two weeks. In the meantime, the dealers have imported only red kits which are not supported by the Bangladeshi machines.  Health Minister Zahid Malik also acknowledged the crisis of the kits to the Chinese delegation during their see-off programme at the Airport on June 22. He said the government is not getting the supply of the kits as of their demand.
Professor Dr Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services, said, "Right now, we have one lakh and two thousand kits. More kits will come. So there is no kit crisis in the country."
He said they were gradually increasing the test numbers and more districts were coming under the testing facilities.
But the IEDCR data indicates that the testing also got halted in Jamalpur and at some private hospitals in Dhaka, apparently due to a shortage of kits.
Experts said the country's testing capacity was still drastically insufficient against its huge population, amid a pandemic when testing facilities should have been expanded every day.
"The current number of daily tests is poor. We have to take the number to 50,000," said IEDCR consultant and epidemiologist Mushtaq Husain, but pointed out that that might not be possible with PCR machines.