Six labs in and outside Dhaka alongside the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) are performing tests for coronavirus. But the number of tests is still not enough.
The labs tested 140 samples on Tuesday, while the number was 157 on Wednesday, according to the health directorate.
Starting from January 21, the country has so far tested some 1,759 people for the coronavirus. Of them, 54 tested positive.
The IEDCR, Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID), Institute of Public Health (IPH), Dhaka Shishu Hospital, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), and Armed Forces Institute of Pathology are now conducting coronavirus tests.
But not even 10 tests on average are performed in either of these labs except for the icddr,b.
Only the IEDCR and the BITID carry out coronavirus tests by collecting samples directly from suspected patients while the remaining ones work as referral labs.
Health experts said community transmission of coronavirus has begun so the country should be able to test all suspected cases. Because this pandemic cannot be fought blindfolded.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque also called upon people with coronavirus symptoms to go for tests.
The health minister, at an online briefing yesterday, said, "Only availability of testing facilities is not enough. People should come up for tests."
"I do not want our people to remain out of coronavirus tests. I would like to request our countrymen to do more and more tests for the sake of their own and their families' safety," he added.
Experts said a change has to be brought in sample collection for tests. Now, the IEDCR cannot go door-to-door and collect samples.
The test definition needs to be changed. Coronavirus tests have to be done on all suspects.
A specific entre is needed where all people will submit their samples, and the IEDCR will send those to different labs. Otherwise, the testing rates will not increase, they added.
Prof Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Shamsuzzaman, director at National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre, told The Business Standard, "We need to collect samples through a centrally-controlled system developed in a combined way. The control room will decide on sending samples to a particular lab."
On the other hand, at the local level, a test will have to be done after getting a phone call from a patient. All test results have to be published centrally.
"If a large number of samples are tested, we will come to know the exact information about coronavirus infections," he added.
Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases in Chattogram has tested only 28 suspected people in the last eight days.
The institute has a capacity to perform tests on 40 samples but it is now doing only on five a day on average.
"The number of tests is low as many people do not know about the institute. Our hospital has a corner for flu patients and we are collecting samples from suspected cases.
The number of tests will increase gradually. We are now collecting samples from the district hospital, Kaptai and other areas," MA Hasan, director at the hospital, told The Business Standard.
The Institute of Public Health is also conducting a lower number of tests. Beginning on March 25, it tested only seven samples till Wednesday.
"Our lab is working as a referral centre. We only test the samples collected by EPI technicians from different districts, upazilas and city corporations," IPH Director Dr Rahim said.
Dhaka Shishu Hospital began coronavirus tests on March 29 and till now it has collected five samples.
When contacted over a lower number of testing, IEDCR Director Professor Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora told The Business Standard, "We test those suspected cases whom we think it is necessary to do on, after getting phone calls to our hotline numbers.
"The IEDCR community collect samples directly. The IPH collects samples from outside Dhaka. The remaining labs tests patients who come to them," she added.
"If there are not enough suspected cases, we cannot increase the number of tests," Dr Meerjady pointed out.
"We can perform much more tests than we are doing right now. We are not overburdened yet," she said.
BSMMU begins coronavirus test
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) began coronavirus tests yesterday.
The tests will be performed between 8.30 am and 2 pm every day.
BSMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Kanak Kanti Barua said they have 240 testing kits available right now.
Prof Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman of virology department at BSMMU, said they will test a coronavirus suspect immediately after taking advice from on-duty doctors at "fever clinic" set up on the first floor of Betar Bhaban. It will take three to four hours for coming up with a test result.
If a patient tests positive with coronavirus, they will inform the authorities concerned instantly, he added.