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Dhaka Tribune

IEDCR not expanding coronavirus testing facilities yet

Official says IEDCR has everything it needs to test suspected coronavirus patients and keep the system centralized

Update : 11 Mar 2020, 08:16 PM

With the overall coronavirus situation in the country under control and the three infected patients “recovering,” the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has said that it is not necessary yet to expand the Covid-19 testing facilities around the country.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday, the institute’s Principal Scientific Officer Dr ASM Alamgir said the coronavirus sample testing was currently being done at IEDCR in Dhaka only.

Asked why they were not expanding the testing facilities, he said: “Every positive case needs to be isolated. His or her contacts and whereabouts will have to be tracked.

“If a private lab takes a sample of someone positive for coronavirus, and then sends them home, how would we find that person later? The people who came in contact with the infected person within 14 days will have to be tracked down too.”

Alamgir said: “No other institution is capable of doing this. That’s why the system is centralized.”

However, he said that they have few backup labs ready. “If the virus spreads widely, these backup labs are ready handle the pressure. I don’t want to name the labs as people will start thronging them and create problems.”

He said they had everything they need at IEDCR to handle the current pressure to test the suspected coronavirus patients.

Earlier in the day, addressing the daily press briefing, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora said that new test results of two among the country’s first three Covid-19 patients have come negative.

"According to World Health Organization (WHO) protocol and discussions with experts, the patients will be released if a second test shows negative results as well,” she said, adding: "They will undergo the second test after 24 hours."

On March 8, IEDCR had confirmed the country’s first three coronavirus patients.

Sampling process

Until Wednesday, IEDCR tested 142 samples and detected no new patients, said Dr Meerjady.

Currently, IEDCR are testing the samples of potential coronavirus patients — both Bangladeshis and foreigners — who arrived in Bangladesh from abroad recently, said Dr Alamgir.

He said when a person, suspicious of being infected, comes to IEDCR, he or she undergoes screening first. “If he or she is not from countries where coronavirus has spread, we normally don’t even do screening. Otherwise, our people collect samples from the people who are sent to hospital from the airports.”

Saying IEDCR was more than capable of sampling on its own, the principal scientific officer added: “IEDCR has the capacity to test 700-750 samples every day. But if we decide to work in shifts, testing of 1,500 samples in a day will also be possible.”

When asked how many testing kits IEDCR had, he said there was no way to say that as the number fluctuates due to the continuous nature of the sample testing process.

Tk50cr for health services

Meanwhile, the government allocated Tk50 crore for health services to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus in the country.

The Finance Ministry on Wednesday informed the Directorate General of Health Services about the allocation in response to the directorate’s demand for Tk100 crore, reports BSS.

Out of the allocated Tk50 crore, over Tk45.5 crore is for purchase of equipments. The rest will be used to raise public awareness and buy chemical re-agents.

Since the coronavirus outbreak started from China’s Wuhan city late December last year, more than 121,700 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in 121 countries and territories around the world with nearly 4,400 deaths.

China remains the hardest-hit overall with more than 80,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths.

MRP Tk30 fixed for surgical masks

Days after fixing the prices of hand sanitizers, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) on Wednesday also fixed the maximum retail price (MRP) of surgical mask at Tk30 per piece.

“Those, who sell the product over the fixed price, will face legal actions,” DGDA Director General Mahbubur Rahman told Bangla Tribune.

The rate of masks went up manifold after the three coronavirus patients were detected.

Mahbubur said: “The face mask manufacturers are asked not to supply over 500 masks under an invoice. The concerned companies are also asked to produce and supply 50ml hand-sanitizer packs.”

Isolation, self-quarantine continue

With the number of self or home-quarantined people who recently arrived home from abroad growing, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady on Wednesday said that eight returnees — isolated on suspicion of carrying the virus — were now in isolation at different hospitals.

Briefing the media at the IEDCR auditorium, she said: “These patients are now being kept in different hospitals, but we are working on an alternative so the patients can be kept in the same place.”

Dr Meerjady further noted: “Instead of home-quarantine, we are insisting on self-quarantine. We want people to be careful when they go out of the house.”

“Five more thermal scanners have been gifted by the Summit Group, which will soon be placed at airports. One of them will be kept on standby at Dhaka airport,” she added. 

IEDCR on Wednesday also introduced the 13th hotline — 01944333222 — for people to call them and receive assistance over the phone regarding any coronavirus fear.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 24 people went to IEDCR and samples from 10 of them were tested, said Dr Meerjady.

About people who are suspicious of being infected, she requested offices to encourage such employees to work from home for 14 days.

Of the Bangladeshis infected abroad, five are in Singapore and two each are in Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Among the five in Singapore, four have recovered and returned home. One person is still in critical condition and is in the ICU of a hospital there.

Bangladesh government has also asked people returning from a number of coronavirus-hit countries to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days from the day of their arrival.

Many quarantined in different districts

In Dinajpur, authorities on Wednesday put a 25-year-old student, who returned from China on February 27, on home-quarantine as he was suffering from fever and breathing problem.

He was kept in home quarantine after field-level workers of the Civil Surgeon’s Office came to know about his illness.

Civil Surgeon Md Abdul Quddus said they informed IEDCR and a team from Dhaka was on the way to Dinajpur to collect sample for diagnosis. “We also kept his father in a separate room as he had come into contact with his son.”

Meanwhile, in Noakhali, a 22-year-old youth was kept in home-quarantine after he came home from Qatar on March 8. He had a fever for 15 days before he returned.

In Sylhet, authorities of a hospital on Wednesday brought back a 70-year-old woman and kept her in isolation. The woman, who returned home from Saudi Arabia 12 days back and had a fever, had fled from the hospital several days ago after doctors suspected she was infected with coronavirus.

In Khulna, an Italy-returnee was kept in home-quarantine. In Jessore, a couple, who also returned from Italy, was kept in home-quarantine for 14 days.

Besides, 79 persons in Manikganj, 37 persons in Kishoreganj, six in Jessore, five in Keraniganj, five in Narayanganj, two each in Bogra and Narsingdi were asked to remain in home-quarantine.

Additional reporting by Ashif Islam Shaon and district correspondents

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