The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) will provide medical equipment worth one billion Yen or Tk79 crore to Bangladesh to assist it in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The equipment the Japan government will give Bangladesh is made by the East Asian country itself. A memorandum of understanding will be signed very soon after the finalisation of the equipment list, said Md Helal Uddin, division chief (planning) of the Health Services Division.
"Earlier, we sent a list of equipment to the Japanese government. The Health Services Division had had a meeting on Thursday last with Jica representatives to finalise the list. We need another meeting to make the list," he added.
Japan has already sent a draft of an exchange note to the Bangladesh government. The Japanese grant will not come in the form of any project assistance but the country will provide it directly, said officials of the Economic Relations Division and the Health Services Division.
Health Services Division officials said Bangladesh wants five Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines to ramp up testing facilities for Covid-19, and other safety equipment to stem the spread of coronavirus. An equipment list was sent to Jica in March this year.
On that list, Bangladesh sought five lakh Personal Protective Equipment, 5,000 infrared thermometers, 10 lakh sterile examination gloves and three lakh units of safety goggles.
Already, more than one lakh people in Bangladesh have been infected with the coronavirus. The Covid-19 test is being performed in 65 labs, which according to health experts is inadequate against the demand because of a shortage of PCR machines.
Health Services officials said they are mulling the expansion of coronavirus testing to the district headquarters as the disease is yet to show any sign of slowing down. The PCR machines will be installed at hospitals in the district headquarters.
Dr Jahidur Rahman, focal person of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, told The Business Standard, "In our lab, 186 samples are tested in two shifts a day on a PCR machine. But the demand for the test is much higher. If we are given more PCR machines and manpower, it will be possible to do more tests."