Eight more laboratories in and outside Dhaka will carry out coronavirus tests along with the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), to meet the ever increasing demand for testing because of community transmission.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) confirmed the matter on Thursday. However, no further details are available regarding when those labs will start the testing procedure, and whether they have adequate manpower or capacity.
Responding to a query, Dhaka Medical College Hospital's Director Brig Gen AKM Nasir Uddin said, "The virology department lab of the DMCH will carry out coronavirus tests. The department has a bio-safety laboratory and a PCR machine.
"We can begin tests within the next two-three days."
The Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) will conduct coronavirus tests at the microbiology laboratory of the Dhaka Shishu (Children's) Hospital. The testing will begin after the DGHS provides testing kits.
Director Prof Shafi Ahmed of the Dhaka Shishu Hospital said, "The CHRF will test samples [for coronavirus] in our laboratory. We will only test samples collected by other healthcare facilities."
"But the testing procedure has not started yet, and I cannot say for certain at this moment when it will begin," he added.
A PCR machine has been installed at the Institute of Public Health, but coronavirus testing is yet to begin there.
Outside the capital, the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) in Chattogram has a PCR machine. Since Wednesday, the institute has conducted coronavirus tests on a limited scale.
BITID has cited the lack of manpower as a major issue.
The Rangpur Medical College Hospital has also said that it will carry out coronavirus tests, but, it is yet to receive a PCR machine.
Director Faridul Islam Chowdhury of the hospital said tests will begin as soon as they receive the PCR machine and testing kits.
Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital already has a PCR machine, but it has not been used for years due to a lack of trained personnel and a proper laboratory.
Addressing the issue, Osmani medical college's Deputy Director Dr Himangshu Lal Roy said, "We have a PCR machine, but it remains unused. We can use it after getting additional equipment and trained personnel.
"A team from the Public Works Department inspected the hospital on Wednesday. They came to assess the possibility of building a lab here. Construction will begin after the allocation of funds."
When asked, Rajshahi Medical College Hospital's Deputy Director Dr Saiful Ferdous said, "The health ministry has asked us to submit a requisition to build a PCR lab. We complied with the instruction, but equipment is yet to arrive here.
"We will build a lab after the equipment arrives at the hospital. Then the diagnosis of coronavirus patients will be possible here.
There are reports that a laboratory for coronavirus testing will be established at the Khulna Medical College Hospital, but it has no PCR machine.
Khulna Medical College Hospital's Vice-Principal Dr Mehedi Newaz said, "There are no PCR machines in Khulna. We have contacted the IEDCR to provide us with this machine. We hope to receive one very soon.
"Once we get the machine, we will be able to identify coronavirus patients."
Sources at the DGHS said three PCR labs have been set-up, one at the Institute of Public Health, another at Dhaka Shishu Hospital and the third at the BITID in Chattogram. More PCR machines will be provided to other hospitals gradually.
There are reports that the virology department laboratory of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) will test samples for coronavirus. However, the department's Chairman Dr Saif Ullah Munshi could not confirm when the testing will begin.
Dr Munshi told The Business Standard, "We are making preparations and buying equipment. But we are yet to receive details about whether the government will provide us with the testing kits. So, I cannot say when the tests will begin."
Experts have urged utmost caution while collecting and testing samples for the coronavirus, as it is very infectious.
Commenting on the issue, former vice-chancellor and virology expert of the BSMMU Prof Nazrul Islam said, "It is a good initiative that the scope of coronavirus testing is being increased.
"More patients will be able get tested because of this measure. However, authorities must remain vigilant against the spread of the virus from laboratories. Tests must be carried out with skilled personnel and with utmost caution."