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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Lagging behind in Covid testing proves a sheer failure in development

SINCE the first Covid-19 case was detected on 8 March, 118 days have elapsed, Bangladesh still lags behind in terms of increasing the testing facilities in comparison with the other South Asian countries. World Health Organization said Bangladesh is carrying out 4,409 tests per million people whereas the rate is 4,727 in Sri Lanka, 6,086 in India, 6,707 in Thailand, 17,902 in Nepal, 23,366 in Malaysia and 89,933 in the Maldives. The total number of infected people now stands at 1,56,391 and the death toll reached to 1,968 on Saturday. The government last month decided to divide all the areas hit by the Covid-19 pandemic into three zones - red, yellow, and green based on the severity of infections and death rates. But no significant lockdown is imposed in the areas except Rajabazar and Wari. In the last seven days, a total of 26,671 new cases were recorded in Bangladesh, making it the eighth country in the world in terms of the weekly increase in coronavirus cases.
Though experts said the number of daily tests needs to be increased immediately, labs in Bangladesh cannot increase testing for several reasons. These include that most of the labs have only one PCR machine plus there is a lack of biosafety labs and skilled employees. As the PCR lab testing facilities are inadequate, antibody testing can be a solution, but the government adamant to PCR testing and set impediments to antibody-based testing kits. For antibody testing, no skilled manpower is needed and the existing workers can do it. It can even be done by volunteers.
To taming the virus, where the test is the key determinate, Upazila Health Complex has to be made functional as well for collecting samples and treating patients by making isolation facilities. It will decrease the pressure on metropolitan hospitals. The IEDCR preliminary made a wrong assessment of the disease and started testing at only one lab without increasing facilities for a long time. The government for averting loss of life and livelihood must introduce antibody testing facilities along with PCR testing. The government must heed the call of all walks of life.