About 60 lakh people live in Cox's Bazar, Bandarban and South Chattogram, where there were quick Covid test reports in a day, even as the world was in panic amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The suffering of Covid-19 patients and death rates remain low for being able to start treatment quickly, said people concerned.
140,819 people were able to test for Covid-19 in the labs of Cox's Bazar till 8 May this year.
This was possible because the only government medical college in Cox's Bazar was able to work with three Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) labs simultaneously, said Anwar Hossain, manager of a private hospital in the tourist city and a Covid-19 volunteer.
Wishing anonymity, multiple sources at Cox's Bazar Medical College (CBMC) said that due to the far-sighted thinking of Prof Dr Rezaul Karim, the former principal of the college, patients are able to get quick Covid test reports in one day.
No medical college set up more than one general microbiology lab on campus. But there are three general microbiology labs running at CBMC, the sources also said.
Initially, he set up a lab for the college and then he wrote to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and they set up a field lab at CBMC. The World Health Organisation (WHO) later set up another lab to facilitate services to Rohingyas after the surge of Covid-19.
People concerned said the three PCR labs of CBMC have the capacity to test 1100 samples daily, and on average, 600 people get Covid-19 test reports daily.
Three PCR labs, including one from WHO that was set up in 2020 for Covid tests, have now earned the confidence of 60 lakh people in Cox's Bazar and South Chattogram.
Of them, 28 lakh are locals and 11 lakh Rohingyas from eight upazilas of Cox's Bazar, 6 lakh from seven upazilas of Bandarban, and 13 lakh people from four upazilas in South Chattogram, Lohagara, Satkania, Chandanaish and Banshkhali.
Just one general microbiology lab would not have made it possible to report so many tests in a day. When the permanent campus of CBMC was shifted to district sadar in 2016, then principal Prof Rezaul, arranged to set up several general microbiology labs along with other necessary labs for the college.
Cox's Bazar district unit Chhatra League president SM Saddam Hussein, who has been working on the burial of Covid patients, said many samples would have had to be sent to Chattogram or Dhaka if multiple PCR labs had not been set up in Cox's Bazar. If Covid-19 test reports took too long, many people might have died without getting proper treatment.
Muhammad Yunus Khan, visiting home from Dubai, Mohammad Shah Alam, a Saudi Arabia returnee, Jahangir Alam of Ramu's South Mithachari and many others, said it was very reassuring and helpful to be able to get test reports in just six hours, allowing many to return in time to work abroad.
This was possible due to quick and ample opportunities for testing in their own area, they said.
Asked about what's the reason for setting up multiple PCR labs in a college, CBMC former principal Dr Rezaul, now head of the Department of Pediatrics at Agrabad Ma O Shishu Hospital and Medical College in Chattogram, said the world's longest beach town of Cox's Bazar attracts millions of tourists annually. Moreover, 11 lakh Rohingyas have been kept in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas since 2017 on humanitarian grounds.
"Keeping these issues in mind, I decided to set up multiple labs for general microbiology to tackle possible medical disasters or a pandemic. After setting up a college lab, we arranged for a field lab of IEDCR. Adequate space is provided for setting up more labs if required," he said.
After the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak, another lab has been set up here at the initiative of the World Health Organization.
"In doing all this, I have had to listen to all kinds of criticism, including talk of waste of money, madness, whimsicality, and the like. But now half a crore people from Cox's Bazar, Chattogram and Bandarban, including Rohingyas, are getting the benefit of this. It's satisfying for me," he said.
Cox's Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Mahbubur Rahman said 1,40,819 people from Cox's Bazar-Bandarban and South Chattogram were tested at three PCR labs of Cox's Bazar Medical College from 1 April, 2020 to 8 May this year. 10,430 people tested positive. In Cox's Bazar district, out of 83,761 people tested, the number of infected people stands at 8,359.
In Bandarban district, 913 people have tested positive out of 5,633 samples. Of the 11,801 samples collected from South Chattogram, 459 tested positive. Out of 39,671 Rohingyas who were tested, 696 people tested positive.
A total of 100 people have died in Cox's Bazar district in the year or so since 31 March and the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak. Among them there are 11 Rohingyas.
Dr Mahbubur Rahman, general secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Cox's Bazar unit, said the labs were well equipped with state of the art equipment. The service is available due to the foresight of Prof Rezaul, former principal of CBMC.
Prof Rezaul gave impetus to a stalled medical college. Another PCR lab is going to be set up in that room fixed by him, Dr Mahbub also said.
He expressed hope that the service would grow and advance with the sincerity of all concerned.