Bangladesh

Testing tumbles despite spread

While the transmission of the novel coronavirus has turned almost the entire country into a high-risk zone, the number of daily tests has been decreasing resulting in many people carrying the virus undetected – ultimately infecting others around them.

In this context, the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 yesterday recommended making Covid-19 tests at government facilities free of costs and also the reducing of the price of tests in private laboratories.

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"Detecting Covid-19 patients fast [as possible] is important to prevent transmission. [But] the number of daily tests has decreased recently. Setting up sample collection booths in each ward of each town is urgent," the committee recommended in its 31st meeting held on Sunday night, said a press release published yesterday.

According data of the Directorate General of Health Services, the total number of tests conducted last week (April 13-19) was 156,386 while and it was 346,135 in the previous week (April 6-12), which means the number of tests last week decreased by 55 percent compared to the previous one.

Since the government started testing suspected novel coronavirus cases from January 21 last year, the number of daily tests crossed 30,000 this month for the first time. Last week, however, it was stagnant around the 20,000 mark daily.

Otherwise, the number of daily tests was around 15,000 on an average, which too decreased to its lowest in January and February this year.

The high level of positive results means that there are many more undetected individuals, who are unknowingly spreading the infection, experts said.

Bangladesh has so far done 31 tests per 1,000 people -- the lowest even among South Asian countries. Meanwhile, the Maldives has done 1,272 tests per 1,000, according to the ourworldindata.org.

Among other South Asian countries, Bhutan is in second position with 853 tests per 1,000 people, India third with 191, Sri Lanka fourth with 115, Nepal fifth with 80, and Pakistan sixth with 50 tests.

Globally, Denmark is on top of the list with 4,166 tests followed by United Arab Emirates with 4,160 per 1,000 people. The USA has done 1,193 tests and the UK 2,008, according to the ourworldindata.org.

Bangladesh started witnessing the second spike in Covid-19 cases from the second week of March. The positivity rate, since then, had risen to 23 percent last week.

As of yesterday, the reported death toll was at 9,739, which is 1.42 percent of all confirmed cases in the country.

"The number of daily tests should be raised until the positivity rate falls below seven or six percent and it [tests] should be multiplied to more than double, compared to the positivity rate, to detect and isolate the hidden cases," Mushtuq Hussain, consultant of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told The Daily Star recently.

The NTAC, meanwhile, has recommended that testing fees in private facilities be revised as the price of Covid-19 testing kits in the market has decreased notably.

"It will contribute to increasing the number of tests and to the affordability for more people. Besides, this will also contribute to reduce the pressure on the government-run testing laboratories," the committee said, adding, "This way, isolation of infected patients can be ensured faster, which is important to control the transmission."

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