Imposition of fees as well as spiralling public distrust because of false reports issued by some private facilities are among the reasons that led to a decline in Covid-19 tests, health professionals and experts have said.
In June, the number of sample tests hovered around 15,000-18,000 per day, but it came down sharply to the 11,000-mark in July while infection rate posted a steady rise.
The Business Standard talked to a number of testing labs in this regard. They said the people are no longer interested, as before, to have a test done, and hence a fewer number of samples are being submitted to them.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region, said middle- and low-income people are not going to have a test done owing to the test fees.
Also, many used to get tested in private labs to avoid sufferings in government hospitals, but their reliance has received a big jolt due to a recent scandal of issuing false reports by the JKG and the Regent hospitals in Dhaka.
The National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center (NILMRC) is a major coronavirus testing centre in Dhaka. So far, it has tested the highest number of daily samples, with average tests being around 2,700. On June 30, it tested 3,222 samples but, now, it has come down to only 800.
NILMRC Director Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman said a big number of samples from different divisions and districts and hospitals in Dhaka used to come to his lab. However, samples coming now are lower than those in the last month.
"We used to work round the clock because there were more samples before, but the workload is lower now. However, we have still kept our 24-hour shift running."
Virologist Dr Jahidur Rahman, focal person of the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital covid-19 testing lab, said a kind of awareness about the disease has been created.
They now prefer keeping themselves in self-isolation to testing if they develop any Covid symptom, he added.
Besides, performing a second test has been removed as a criterion to get released from the hospital, which is also a reason behind a reduced number of tests, said Professor Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the DGHS.
She urged those who are in need to come and test their samples. She also said the sample testing is still free for the poor.
Prof Muzaherul said the only way to control Covid-19 is to isolate the infected through testing.
"Now the infection rate is up, meaning that we are still moving towards the peak. We have to increase the testing rate."
He said the RT-PCR tests are expensive. Instead of it, antigen-antibody tests should be emphasised. There is no scope to keep any infected person beyond the test because one infected person can infect 18 others in only two days.
No kit crisis
The country has no shortage of kits for sample testing, said Dr Rizwanul Karim, joint member secretary of the DGHS covid-19 control room.
He also said, currently, DGHS has a stock of 3.5 lakh test kits and the process of importing kits remains ongoing.
Virologist Dr Jahidur Rahman of Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital echoed Dr Rizwanul, saying they are regularly getting kits from the DGHS as per their demand.
DGHS is monitoring the number of kits and tests in labs through a real-time web portal. Quick kits are delivered if there is a kit crisis anywhere. And to reduce the delay in getting the test report, the labs that have accumulated a backlog of samples are sending them to nearby labs.
Covid-19 death toll nears 2,400
Bangladesh confirmed 39 more deaths from the novel coronavirus and 3,099 new cases after testing 12,423 samples in the last 24 hours till Monday 8am.
With this, the death toll from the virus rose to 2,391 and the number of total infections stood at 186,894 in Bangladesh.
Of the deceased, 30 were men and nine were women. Of them, 19 were from Dhaka, five from Chattogram, seven from Khulna, three from Barishal, two each from Sylhet and Rangpur, and one from Mymensingh division, Prof Nasima Sultana said during a virtual briefing on Monday.
Thirty-four of them died in different hospitals and five at their respective homes.
"12,358 samples were collected in the last 24 hours and 12,423 were tested in 77 labs across the country. So far, 952,947 samples have been tested," she added.
Besides, 4,703 patients have recovered during the time, increasing the tally to 98,317.