The Covid-19 pandemic has now reached its peak in the country, increasing the number of people standing in long lines at different private and public hospitals in the capital, to carry out RTPCR test.
As the test demand is high, more and more antigen tests need to be carried out. Therefore, there is no need to ask a person, who has come for testing, whether they want antigen or RTPCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test.
After conducting the antigen test of all, persons with negative reports will be tested for RTPCR. This will significantly reduce sufferings of the people and allow more people to be tested. As a result, infected persons could be isolated quickly.
More and more antigen tests have to be conducted in the highly infected areas of Dhaka. At present, antigen testing is being done only outside Dhaka, in areas having no RTPCR lab.
But there are more patients in Dhaka and more pressure for tests in Dhaka. Every day, long queues of people are seen at Mugda Medical College Hospital, the BSMMU and Brac's sample collection booth.
Patients have to stand for hours in long lines with fever. If antigen tests are introduced in these places, more people can be tested in a short time. There is no kit crisis for antigen tests. Even if there is a crisis, the kits can be easily imported.
Antigen tests, like the RTPCR tests, do not require much arrangement or skilled manpower. We have enough skilled manpower for antigen testing in our health sector.
At present, the number of tests has increased, but it has to be increased more – although the number of tests has been low for the last few days. The benefits of lockdown can be reaped by increasing the number of tests and quickly isolating more infected people by identifying them. If antigen tests are introduced in all hospitals in Dhaka, the suffering of the patients will be reduced.
It is okay to charge Tk300 for collecting samples for Covid-19 tests from homes of elderly or sick patients. But I think those who stand in line for Covid test should be tested free of cost. It would be better to reduce the cost of tests at the private level as well.
There is still a crisis of technologists for the RTPCR test. Now those who have been working day and night for 13 months are tired. The number of technologists needs to be increased more. It is important to isolate the infected by testing to control the infection rate.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain is Adviser of IEDCR