Current hotline numbers for sample collection are 013-137-91145 and 013-137-91146
A 30-year old man in Dhaka recently found it a bit confusing on what was required to do to get tested for Covid-19 under the country’s present guidelines.
“As I suffered from fever for the last two days, I wanted to get tested for Covid-19 as there are children at my home among other family members. At the same time, I have to resume working at the office soon. I did not want to take any chances,” he said, requesting not to be named.
However, his journey in getting tested was a bumpy one.
First, he learned that the Covid-19 kiosk which was setup in his area had been shifted elsewhere.
He then called 16263, the health call centre of the Director General of Health Services (DGHS), and was given another number to contact for testing as the health call centre only deals with tele-medicine at present.
After contacting the number given to him, he was asked to contact any Brac kiosk near his area to submit his samples for testing. He soon found out that there was a Brac kiosk near his home at Chader Hat playground in Jahuri Moholla of Mohammadpur.
However, when he went to the kiosk the next day, he learnt that he has to register online and pay the test fee through mobile banking first to receive a serial number and date for submitting his sample.
Acting quickly, he registered online for the next day and successfully managed to submit his sample at the kiosk. He was one of the 13 people who submitted their samples for testing at the centre on Monday morning.
“It took awhile for me to understand that the process to get tested had changed significantly over the last few months,” he said.
“The current system is relatively easy but it is very important to circulate information related to updates in procedures among the mass public more effectively.”
How was the testing procedure reformed over time?
After Bangladesh reported its first confirmed Covid-19 case on March 8, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) immediately announced its hotline number as the emergency number for coronavirus-related issues.
Later, hotline numbers were raised to 17, which was still inadequate in attending to the large volume of calls from panic-stricken people in the country.
On March 18, an integrated control room was established using Swasthya Batayan (16263), a hub number was created by the DGHS with the help of the a2i earlier in April this year.
Soon, decentralization of sample collection was enforced using JKG Healthcare and later on with Brac.
Currently, Brac is the only NGO in the country operating walk-in kiosks for coronavirus testing in the country.
In early June, the system was reformed again to enforce zoning management as part of safety measures as well as to record data of the sample collection process.
Later that month, the government decided to impose fees for testing. The digital financial service – Nagad – was selected for the process and the money is directly deposited to the government fund.
What is the current process now?
According to the DGHS, the current hotline numbers for sample collection are 013-137-91145 and 013-137-91146.
It also said currently only Brac is operating walk in sample collection. Besides, ICDDR,B is also collecting samples at their institution and or from the patient’s home, but it is working as a private institute. Several other health care facilities are also providing the services as well.
To use the kiosks, one has to register with the Brac website where he will be given a token number and a date to submit his sample. During the registration process, the patient has to pay Tk202 using Nagad.
After registration, the patient will need to visit a nearby centre chosen during the registration with the test form provided by DGHS and the token. After verifying the information, Brac medical technologists will collect the sample.
Currently, 97 kiosks are being operated throughout the country by Brac.
DGHS is currently collecting samples only from immobile patients, children aged under ten and elderly people who are vulnerable to the virus.
DGHS former director Samir Kanti Saha, also member of the testing committee for Covid 19 management, said the number of people seeking their help for tests from home has also been low since August.
Since the month of August began, some 200 samples were collected from home by DGHS technologists and technician team.
He said not all the tests were from fresh patients and many of them were follow-up tests, and added that full addresses of patients were now being collected so that the data can be used for future measures.