The government has initiated a project to enhance the capacity and improve the quality of the existing 19 coronavirus testing laboratories in the country to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the project, the government will also install an isolation centre and improve the critical care unit at 17 medical colleges across the country, according to health ministry sources.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured the government of funding the $100-million project that will be implemented by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Health Services Division.
The loan proposal will be presented at the board meeting of the ADB on Thursday, said an official of the Economic Relations Division.
Under the project initiated for immediate procurement and supply of testing equipment, upgradation of medical infrastructure, and training of healthcare providers to fight the pandemic in Bangladesh, the DGHS will collect coronavirus testing kits, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines, and safety equipment to ramp up testing facilities, said an official of the health ministry.
The government will also increase isolation beds at medical college hospitals, the official said, adding Dhaka Medical College, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Mymensingh Medical College, Chattogram Medical College, Rajshahi Medical College, Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, and Sher-e-Bangla Medical College in Barishal are included in the list.
An official concerned said the ADB gave an assurance to fund the project around a month ago but the initiative is going slow due to delay in making the development project proposal.
Dr AE Md Muhiuddin Osmani, joint chief (planning) of the Health Services Division, said, "We have just made the initial project proposals. We still do not know how long it will take for the project to get approved after going through all the processes."
The project will now be sent to the Planning Commission for approval, he added.
He said the objective of capacity building and infrastructure development is to fight the pandemic.
"The government wants to enhance the testing capacity of the existing laboratories. To this end, the necessary equipment will be provided to the Covid-19 tasting labs," he maintained.
This project will help to further improve the quality of corona patient service across the country.
According to the health ministry official, Bangladesh is currently running 19 labs across the country for testing coronavirus samples. Among the labs, nine are located in Dhaka and the remaining others are in various districts across the country.
People can contact the lab authorities and give them samples for coronavirus test staying at their home.
Meanwhile, the government fears the coronavirus situation in the country will worsen in May. It estimates that the number of Covid-19 positive cases may surge to 50,000 cases by the end of next month while the death toll may cross 1,000. Therefore, it is preparing 20,000 hospital beds to handle the probable increase in the pressure of coronavirus patients across the country.
The health ministry says so far 6,000 beds have been prepared in government and private hospitals in the country.