The government has given permission for antigen tests to diagnose the novel coronavirus.
The approval was given on September 17 in a notification signed by Dr Bilkis Begum, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has advised the authorities to take all-out preparations to prevent and control a probable second wave of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Antigen-based testing has been permitted in all government medical college hospitals, district hospitals, government PCR labs and all health institutes in the country following the recommendations of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the "interim guidance" of the World Health Organisation, said the health ministry notification.
However, for the purpose of verification and selection, it is necessary to follow the Covid-19 Lab Expansion Policy, which is being processed by the DGHS, once it is finalised.
The circular noted that the order will take effect immediately.
Thanking the government for the "timely decision", Professor Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard, "Many districts do not have PCR test facilities. So, Covid-19 testing can be done easily in those areas with the antigen tests and the real state of the virus situation can be properly known."
Prof Nazrul Islam, who is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, added, "We have been advising a start of antigen testing for the past few months as it is faster and less costly than PRC tests. People will be benefited if this test starts as soon as possible."
He also said antigen tests will reduce the sufferings of people and hospitals will also be able to easily resume treatment of non-Covid patients.
Nazrul Islam mentioned that results of antigen tests are available within just 15 minutes of testing.
Suggestion to prepare roadmap to prevent second wave
The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has recommended that the government prepare a roadmap to ward off a probable second wave of Covid-19 infection in the country.
The DGHS has already sought help from the national committee in this regard.
The committee has also promised to assist in preparing this roadmap by its sub-committees, said a press release.
The recommendations were made at the 20th meeting of the committee held online on Sunday. Prof Dr Mohammad Shahidullah, president of the committee, chaired the meeting.
Many countries are seeing a second wave of the novel coronavirus, while in neighbouring India, which is still going through the first wave, the infection rate is huge, the committee pointed out. It added, "Communications with different countries have resumed.
"In this context, there is a risk of a second wave of the infection in our country."
The national committee also stressed the need for issuing travel advice and guidelines as passengers from different countries are coming to the country.
"Preventive measures need to be strengthened at the points of entry to avert infections. Screening and quarantine need to be ensured. The Corona Tracer app can be used in this regard."
The committee also recommended that Covid-19 isolation centres not be shut down permanently. Besides, it suggested setting up an inter-hospital network for an effective referral system.
The experts committee again underscored the need for ensuring quarantine facilities for health workers, who are dealing with Covid patients, at the hospitals.