International travellers enjoy fast, hassle-free Covid-19 tests
The Covid-19 Isolation Center, located at the Dhaka North City Corporation Market, is collecting samples and delivering test results within just 72 hours
Russell Abu Saeed, a resident of Akhaura union in Brahmanbaria, has been working for a company in Dubai for the last 15 years.
The 33 year-old-man returned home around six months ago when the Covid-19 outbreak began spreading. Russell is now preparing to go back to Dubai to rejoin his work. He is scheduled to board a flight bound for Dubai on the night of August 16.
As per the rules, Russell gave his sample for a novel coronavirus test at a booth of the Covid-19 Isolation Center located in the repurposed Dhaka North City Corporation Market on 14th August; about 72 hours before his scheduled flight.
He received his Covid-19 test report on August 15 around 12:30pm, and tested negative for the novel coronavirus.
Responding to a query on whether he had faced any difficulties while giving his sample or receiving his test report, Russell told The Business Standard, "I have not suffered any problems whatsoever. They had asked me for my email address, but I do not have one.
"So, I came in person to get my test report. The system here is very good," he said with a smile.
Bangladesh's government, on July 23, made it mandatory for everyone to get a Covid-19 negative certificate before travelling abroad.
However, there were complaints that several people planning to travel abroad had missed their flights because of incorrect reports or delays in report delivery. Now such problems are mostly non-existent.
Visiting the Dhaka North City Corporation's Isolation Center around 12:30pm on Saturday, The Business Standard found a few people waiting in front of the sample collection booth. Many others were also waiting for report delivery.
Delwar Hossain, who works at a construction company in Dubai, gave his sample around 12pm on Friday. He is supposed to get the test report at 2pm on Saturday. "I hope there will be no trouble," he said, adding, "Everyone I saw here today left with a report on time."
An official of the Dhaka North isolation centre said, "Even though it was raining and there was a holiday, people planning to travel abroad started arriving at the centre in the morning. Every day, many people come here to give samples and receive reports.
"Initially, there were some complaints regarding the accuracy and delivery of the reports, but those issues have now been resolved," the official said.
The centre is run by the Bangladesh Army. Covid-19 sample collection booths have been operating at the facility since July 20. Samples are collected daily from 10am to 4pm at 20 booths, and two booths are designated for report delivery.
Test results can be obtained by SMS, e-mail and hard copy.
The collected samples are tested at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), National Institute of Preventive & Social Medicine (NIPSOM) and National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center.
Most of the samples are tested at the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center.
Prof Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Shamsuzzaman, director of the centre, said, "Our lab tested 11,921 samples from July 20 to August 14. So far, 625 positive patients have been found. The positivity rate against the tests is 5.2 percent.
"Samples are generally sent here in the evening after collection at the booths. Reports are delivered within 24 hours. The Directorate General of Health Services' (DGHS) Management Information Service data assistant works at our institute.
"He uploads the reports to the DGHS website. So people leaving home for abroad can download the reports from the website if they want."
On July 18, the Health Service Division under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare designated 16 hospitals around the country to test people, who will travel abroad, for Covid-19.
They can get the test done at the hospital for Tk3,500, or get the samples collected from their homes for Tk4,500. They also must show their airline tickets and passports before giving samples.
Those planning to travel abroad must give their samples for testing within 72 hours of the flight, and their reports must be delivered 24 hours before their departure.