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Increase testing capacity: Experts

RT-PCR labs not available in all districts

  • Mohammad Al Amin
  • 15 January, 2022 12:00 AM
  • Print news

The number of Covid-19 testing labs should be increased across Bangladesh to ensure that the spread of the extremely contagious disease can be contained by isolating the infected people, health experts have said.

“It is urgent to increase the coronavirus testing capacity to detect the patients and isolate them or to provide necessary treatment,” Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, member of National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 told the Daily Sun.

He said not only increasing the Covid-19 testing capacity, the government also has to strengthen the genome sequencing activities to look at the real scenario of the virus transmission in specific areas.

“The government should make the coronavirus test free for all,” Nazrul Islam said.

Though the demand for coronavirus test facilities has been increasing day by day, the government couldn’t set up RT PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test labs in all districts due to lack of skilled manpower.

“RT PCR labs have been set up in all medical colleges across the country but we couldn’t set up it in all districts yet as the RT PCR labs need skilled manpower,” Dr. Md. Farid Hossain Miah, Director (Hospital) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told the Daily Sun.

“The government has set up Rapid Antigen test labs in most of the upazilas,” he said, adding “We have planned to set up the RT PCR labs in all districts to increase the capacity for corona test.”

According to DGHS, Covid-19 test is performed in 853 labs -- 152 RT PCR labs, 57 GeneXpert and 644 Rapid Antigen labs at government and private hospitals and diagnostic centres in the country.

Of the testing labs, there are 56 RT PCR labs, 54 GeneXpert and 545 Rapid Antigen labs in government hospitals while 96 RT PCR, three GeneXpert and 99 Rapid Antigen laps in private hospitals and diagnostic centres.

Health and Family Welfare ministry sources said the government is also taking steps to increase the number of coronavirus testing laboratories across the country.

“Coronavirus testing laboratory should be set up in all the districts across the country immediately. Besides, all the hospitals should have labs dedicated for such cases,” Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman of Virology Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) told the Daily Sun.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque at a programme on Wednesday said the number of Covid-19 cases has increased manifolds as 15-20 per cent of the infections are caused by the Omicron variant. “The community transmission of Omicron has happened already here a little bit.”

“Corona patients are rushing to hospitals. The number of patients may rise in the next five to seven days. That’s why hospital authorities have been asked to prepare some 20,000 beds. If the number of patients rises to 40,000 or one lakh, it will be difficult to accommodate them,” he added.

The minister feared that there may be a major spike in corona cases in 5-7 days.

After analyzing countrywide coronavirus infection transmission data for a week, the DGHS published a list, putting all districts in three categories – red, yellow and green zones. Dhaka and Rangamati districts are in high risk or red zones because of their high infection rates.

It further said the infection rate in Dhaka district stood at 12.9 percent while 10 percent infection has been reported in Rangamati – both higher than the national average.

On the other hand, six border districts -- Jashore, Rajshahi, Natore, Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat and Rangpur --- are at low-to-mid level risk. Fifty-four other districts are in the green zone as their infection rates were between 0 per cent and 4 per cent, the DGHS data added.

The DGHS said 10,474 new Covid-19 cases were detected in the country last week (January 5-11). “The coronavirus cases have increased by 6,000 or 169.12 percent in last week,” DGHS said.