Six months have passed since Covid-19 broke out in the country. But the rate of sample testing is nowhere near where it should be.
So, the government is going to approve a guideline for expanding Covid-19 testing. Rapid testing will be allowed under this guideline.
A meeting of the health ministry on Tuesday may make a decision on this, sources at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told The Business Standard.
The DGHS already prepared a draft policy on rapid testing and sent it to the health ministry on July 9, they said.
Later, the ministry formed a committee of experts with Professor Liaquat Ali as its chairman.
The committee prepared a sample testing expansion policy on August 4 and sent it to the Health Services Division of the health ministry.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is now being considered the gold standard for Covid-19 detection.
The testing is not perfect, but it is seen as the most accurate form of testing available for viruses, MIT Technology Review says.
"Unfortunately, it takes time, energy, and trained personnel to run these tests. That makes PCR testing too hard to scale up to the numbers we really need," says the review.
However, antigen testing could be a faster and cheaper way to diagnose Covid-19, MIT Technology Review also says.
And the antibody testing is for serosurveillance, not for a diagnosis. This means antibody testing is performed to make sure if someone had Covid-19 infection in the past.
Noted virologist Professor Nazrul Islam, who is a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told the Business Standard that the committee recommended the approval of rapid testing in the first week of June.
"Rapid testing can play an effective role in figuring out the number of infections and its true picture in the country," he said.
Nazrul Islam also said antigen testing results are available in just 15 minutes.
"If someone goes to hospital for treatment, their antigen testing can be done quickly and the protocol of treatment can be determined accordingly. This can ensure proper treatment for the patient and the safety of the medical personnel.
"However, it is not possible to rely on antibody testing to detect Covid-19 infections. Only those who recovered from the disease need to check if antibodies developed in their body. The sooner rapid testing is approved, the better it will be for everyone," Prof Nazrul Islam said.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, Covid-19 pandemic control consultant to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research, told The Business Standard that antigen and antibody testings are not the only solution to fight off the novel coronavirus.
"It will not be possible to control the outbreak without ensuring isolation, quarantine and maintaining health hygiene," he said.
For the use of antigen and antibody testing kits, quality control will have to be ensured, and permission of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) will have to be taken, according to the Covid-19 Laboratory Expansion (Draft) Guideline.
The DGDA will approve the import of all Covid-19 testing instruments or kits following the Medical Device Registration Guideline.
The DGHS will fix the maximum fee for antibody and antigen testing.
DGDA Deputy Director Ayub Hossain said antibody testing should be allowed for vaccine application or serosurveillance.
"We are awaiting the decision of the ministry regarding rapid testing. And the DGDA already determined the sensitivity of antigen and antibody testing kits," he said.