Amid the fear of a possible second wave of the coronavirus with the fall in temperatures, the government is going to introduce the rapid antigen-based test apart from increasing overall testing across the country, including Dhaka, to detect and isolate more and more suspects.
The Health and Family Welfare Ministry will roll out the antigen test in the country on Saturday for quick and more detection of coronavirus infections to stem the second wave of the virus.“We hope we’ll be able to start the antigen test from Saturday. Initially, the antigen test will be available at hospitals in 10 districts,” Dr Md Habibur Rahman, director (Management Information System) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun on Thursday.
In the first phase, he said, the DGHS will start rapid testing in districts where it is necessary. “We’ll launch the antigen test in 10 other districts in the next week,” he added.
Habibur said they have already supplied antigen test kits to the selected hospitals under the 10 districts and completed necessary training for the medical staff to carry out the test. “Some antigen test kits are already in our hand and some are coming from abroad,” he said.
Replying to a query, he said the DGHS is gradually increasing the coronavirus testing facilities as per the need.
According to the DGHS, the antigen test will start in Sadar hospitals of Panchagarh, Gaibandha, Joypurhat, Patuakhali, Meherpur, Munshiganj, Brahmanbaria, Jashore and Madaripur, and at Shaheed Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital in Sylhet.
The government has already issued necessary directives for the authorities concerned about the rapid antigen test.Sources at the Health Ministry said the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has also prepared a policy guideline about the rapid antigen test.
“The antigen test will help detect coronavirus infections rapidly in the country. We’ve already advised the government to start the testing across the country,” virologist Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the Daily Sun.
He said the committee advised the government to start the rapid antigen test to increase the detection while antibody test for surveillance.
However, though the government is going to start the rapid antigen test to detect coronavirus infections, it has not taken any initiative yet to introduce the antibody test.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on July 24 last said the government decided to approve the start of the rapid antigen test in the country.
DGHS sources said the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 in its meeting held on September 17 advised the government to start the antigen and antibody tests alongside the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.
The DGHS also formulated draft guidelines about the antibody and antigen tests and sent those to the Health Ministry on July 5, the sources added.
Currently, the coronavirus detection activities are being run through RT-PCR test system at 118 government and private testing centres across the country, including the capital.
A total of 2,820,981 samples have been tested at the RT-PCR laboratories as of Thursday when 471,739 of them came back positive for the virus.
Health experts argued that the government should launch the rapid antigen test immediately for diagnosis of more coronavirus infections before the second wave of the pandemic hits the country.
The DGHS is also in talks with private hospitals to start antigen test at those, said an official. The Health Ministry in a circular on September 17 allowed the public hospitals across the country to carry out antigen test following a request made by DGHS.