There is now a backlog of around 4,000 coronavirus samples in the four labs of Chattogram, while around 400 samples keep joining the pile every day, said the district civil surgeon.
Moreover, general people have to wait longer to get test results as the civil surgeon's office has to provide quick service to influential people and VIPs.
"Every day, we test a significant number of people referred by influential quarters and VIPs," said Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Fazle Rabbi.
There has been a huge outcry among the masses as they are not getting test results even after two weeks. Many claimed that they could not take treatment in the meantime as they were yet to receive test results.
Furthermore, some people had no symptoms by the time they got positive test results, which caused fresh worries for them as they had visited many areas and come into contact with others by then.
Sirajul Mostafa, a resident of the city's Oxygen Mor area, told The Business Standard, "I gave my sample on June 6 when I was suffering from fever, aches and a sore throat. Now the symptoms are gone but I have not received the test result as of today [June 20]. I do not know if I am infected or not.
"But some people are getting test results within a day or two. It is very strange," he added.
Shafaul Haque, who lives in Love Lane area, said he gave his sample on June 9. He had to use many references and managed to get the report on June 18, and it came back positive.
"But as I had no symptoms, I visited markets, went to office, and also took my children to doctors. Now police have asked me to go into isolation. It is nothing but a joke."
Preferring to remain unnamed, a local journalist said his mother had shown symptoms and her sample was given for testing on June 9.
She died on June 14.
"We got the result on June 18 and it was positive. As we were not sure earlier, we could not arrange proper treatment for her," the journalist added.
Dr Fazle Rabbi said VIPs and influential people want test results within a day. "If a member of their family is infected, we have to test all other members. Moreover, they are sending us their relatives' friends and neighbours for testing as well," he said.
"This is why samples collected from different areas are waiting in our labs to be tested. There is also huge pressure from different government and private offices for quick testing and re-testing of employees. We are trying our level best to test all the samples. But we have a limited capacity and cannot complete all tests," the civil surgeon explained.
Dr Rabbi said they collected around 1,500 samples between June 1 and June 5. They also collected 2,500 samples from June 9-19 and the results are still pending.
"We are collecting around 1,200 samples on average every day but are able to give 750-800 results as the labs are suffering from manpower shortages and have limited capacity," he explained.
Aminul Hoque Babu, deputy governor of the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission, said, "Without increasing test capacity, blaming any group is unexpected and unrealistic. VIP or commoner – anyone can be infected. So, the civil surgeon's office should treat everyone equally, and it should have a proper policy."
It was also alleged that due to the backlog, healthcare officials were unable to fully comply with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, such as keeping samples within a certain temperature and testing those within three days of receiving.
Experts have expressed doubts about getting the correct result if the test is done long after collecting the samples.
Dr Dwaipayan Sikdar, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chattogram, said, "Not just collecting samples; those have to be tested in time. Otherwise, the results will not be accurate. If the samples are tested 10-15 days after collection, it will not be up to standard. In that case, false results are more likely."
Civil Surgeon Dr Rabbi admitted that the samples were not being tested in full compliance with WHO guidelines due to shortage of manpower and infrastructure.
"To solve the problem, we are trying to run Chattogram University's lab at full capacity. The lab now tests 100 samples every day. If they run at full capacity, 500 samples can be tested," he added.