Bangladesh has only one organisation – the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) – to test Coronavirus, and in light of the experience of the rush that the laboratories faced during the outbreak of dengue last year, it may not be adequate to face the challenge.
Meantime, although many countries have suspended flights to China to contain the risk of disease transmission, Bangladesh has no such plans, and every day around 800 passengers are arriving from China.
Health Secretary Asadul Islam told The Business Standard there is no reason to worry even though only one organisation is able to test Coronavirus.
"It is not like anyone coming to hospital will be tested. Also, the IEDCR has enough facilities to test the virus," he added.
IEDCR Director Professor Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora told The Business Standard that Coronavirus tests need not be available in all hospitals.
"There should be a central control system and it is enough to have the virus testing facilities only in IEDCR," she said.
Flora said anyone seeking a Coronavirus test will be asked about his or her epidemiological history.
"For example, we will ask that person whether he came in contact with other Coronavirus patients and whether he came from a place that has patients. After collecting this information, we will decide whether to test him or not.
"We are not going to test anyone that walks through the door and asks to be tested," she added.
The professor said the sample would be sent to the reference laboratory of the World Health Organisation if the IEDCR test yields a positive result.
"At present, we have enough resources to test Coronavirus. But we have also asked the World Bank and the World Health Organisation for testing kits. The kits will reach us soon," Flora added.
Health experts said only IEDCR and icddr,b have the facilities to detect level-4 viruses like Coronavirus.
But there have been no such tests at icddr,b yet, they added.
Professor Dr Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman of the department of virology at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard that Coronavirus is highly infectious.
"Anyone coming in contact with a Coronavirus patient will be affected. What we have now is an emergency situation and we cannot jump to a conclusion yet. Instead of being panicked, we should tackle the situation with the limited resources that we have.
3 flights to China from Bangladesh per day
Currently, 21 flights are being operated between Bangladesh and China every week.
Of those, 14 flights come from Guangzhou and seven from Qingning, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism is not going to suspend flights between Bangladesh and China, said its Senior Secretary Mohibul Haque.
"We are closely monitoring the situation and the health ministry is working at the airport to ensure health checkups of the arrivals from China," he said.
Three airlines are operating flights between Bangladesh and China – China Eastern, China Southern and US-Bangla.
The demand for travelling to China from Dhaka has declined drastically due to the restriction on movement in different Chinese cities, said Mohammad Abdullah Al Mamun, managing director of US-Bangla.
However, flights from China are full as many Chinese nationals work in Bangladesh, he said.
"On return flights to China, the ratio of Chinese to Bangladeshi passengers is 70:30. The price of air ticket to China has declined amid slump in demand," added Mamun.
Meanwhile, the UK and the US went for drastic action, suspending some flights to curb travel to China amid rising concern over the spread of Coronavirus.
The British Airways on Wednesday suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China. Some other countries also curbed flights, raising travel warnings.
United Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific and Finnair are among the carriers that have already cancelled some flights to China.
The virus that originated in Wuhan city has killed more than 132 people. 6,000 cases have so far been recorded in China.
It has already spread out across the world with confirmed cases in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and North America.
Most of the affected people outside China were found returning from Wuhan or nearby cities, according to different world media reports.