• Tuesday, Aug 04, 2020
  • Last Update : 08:32 am

Why is Bangladesh seeing significant decline in daily Covid-19 tests?

  • Published at 05:48 pm July 12th, 2020
coronavirus test MHO
File photo: A health official uses a nasal swab to collect sample from a man for Covid-19 testing at Central Police Hospital in Rajarbagh, Dhaka on Thursday, May 21, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

There are a number of reasons

Health authorities in Bangladesh had increased Covid-19 tests in the past few months, after experts kept on saying that doing so will provide a look into the pandemic’s real situation in the country.

However, the number of daily tests gradually started declining at the end of June due to a number of reasons.

Experts and health officials have said that imposing a fee on tests at government-run facilities and requiring a doctor’s note to get tested are two of those reasons behind the drop.

Since the deadly disease entered the country back in March, 940,524 tests have been conducted in 77 laboratories around the country, until Sunday morning, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

But data shows that the number of tests authorities concerned have conducted in the last 13 days have seen a significant drop.

On June 30, health authorities disclosed that 18,426 tests were conducted around the country since the previous day, and on Saturday, the number of tests in the same period dropped to 11,193.

On Sunday, the number dropped again — to 11,059.

On July 7, the number of tests in a day came down to 13,173; while 15,572 tests were conducted on July 8, 15,632 tests on July 9, and 13,488 tests on July 10.

Earlier, on July 1, 17,875 tests were conducted; 18,362 on July 2, 14,650 on July 3, 14,727 on July 4, 13,988 on July 5, and 14,245 on July 6.

DGHS spokesperson Dr Ayesha Akther told Dhaka Tribune: “There may be several factors contributing to the decline in daily tests.

“[The government] charging for the test, testing facilities requiring to see a doctor’s prescription for the test, flood in different areas of the country, and health workers who are Covid-19 positive going off duty can be some of them.”

She said they were working on addressing these issues and the number of tests will increase again.

Until Sunday morning, according to DGHS, a total of 2,352 people died from Covid-19 around the country while the total number of cases climbed to 183,795.

Nationwide uniform testing must

Prof Dr Nazrul Islam, virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told Dhaka Tribune that increasing the number of Covid-19 tests only in certain areas will not help if the testing is not uniformly distributed.

“For example, if health authorities conduct around 25 tests in each upazila and at least 20 in each hotspot in Dhaka, we will be able to get the real picture,” he said. 

Dr Nazrul said health authorities should conduct tests across the country, locate areas where the number of Covid-19 cases is high, and properly isolate the infected patients.

He said the government has decided to charge for the tests, which were free at state-run facilities until the end of June, and because of that ultra-poor people cannot afford it anymore.

“Therefore, these people are probably not going to the testing facilities,” he added.

The virologist recommended engaging more volunteer organizations for collecting samples and running tests, as the state-run health facilities are facing manpower shortage with many health workers down with Covid-19.

The government on June 29 had fixed Tk500 for testing samples collected from home and Tk200 for testing samples collected from suspected patients at government hospitals and booths.

Dhaka Tribune also talked to several civil surgeons of different districts and health workers around the country, who said charging for tests at state-run facilities and making doctor’s prescription required were the major reasons behind people avoiding getting tested, unless it’s an emergency.

Dr MA Matin, the superintendent of Patuakhali 250-bed General Hospital, said he found in the past couple of days that people were not coming to get tested as they used to over the past few months.

Charging for the test could be a reason, he said.

Khulna Civil Surgeon Dr Suzat Ahmad said doctors were prescribing Covid-19 tests only for those suspected patients who they think actually need it.

Meanwhile, people suffering from mild fever and cold were not coming to get tested anymore as the panic among them centring this disease was somehow gradually disappearing, he said.

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