We should set a system or definition beforehand to perform any test. So far, the IEDCR is limited to only the Bangladeshi returnees and those who came in contact with them.
I think we should now broaden our definition. It is not that health tests should be done on anybody coming individually for that purpose since the issue of our capability is involved here.
Rather, we could know the level of coronavirus infection in the country if we performed tests on pneumonia patients in our hospitals. Based on those tests, our definition could be changed. But now, we can decide to change the system only after consulting the relevant technical committee.
However, I think we now need to understand whether we have community transmissions of coronavirus. We need extensive testing for that purpose.
Primarily, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide kits to detect coronavirus. But now, kits are also available at the commercial level. We can easily procure them through the WHO.
As the organisation has to supply coronavirus-testing kits worldwide, there is a question as to how many kits it will be able to give Bangladesh. Another issue is that we have only 10 coronavirus cases, and the WHO assistance will come in accordance with that level of infection. WHO would have supplied kits to us quickly if we had more cases.
However, given our dense population and other social conditions, Bangladesh should have been among the priority countries to get kits. Besides, there were other ways to procure kits commercially, which should have been opened up.
Now the global demand for kits is high. As a result, it will take time to get the kits if we seek assistance from any organisation. We would have received kits by now had we asked for them one month ago. Till now, we do not see any step for their advance procurement.
Tests for coronavirus can be performed only in biosafety laboratories. We have a limited number of such laboratories. Only the IEDCR, the icddr,b and the IPH have that facility. Besides, we have a biosafety lab at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases at Sitakunda in Chattogram. But, I do not know how much manpower they have.
If the responsibility for testing coronavirus is given to labs other than the IEDCR, the institute will have to monitor it centrally. Otherwise, we will not know the number of tests in an area and their quality.
Private hospitals may be given the responsibility to perform tests but they should be monitored too. Or else, they may prioritise business over the public health concern.