Number of tests keeps dropping

The number of daily Covid-19 tests has continued to decline over the past three weeks, although experts have all along been saying that increasing the number is crucial to stem the virus infection.

In terms of total number of coronavirus cases, Bangladesh is now the 16th worst hit country in the world. The average daily test number here, however, has fallen down to only around 13,000.

As many as 12,423 samples were tested in 24 hours till 8:30am today, according to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) data.

The DGHS cited imposition of testing fees at the government-run facilities, decision to not test people who have apparently recovered, decrease in infection rates and impact of floods, among other reasons, for the decline in daily test numbers.

On July 2, the government imposed fees on the testing, and the number of daily tests fell by about 4,000 the following day, shows DGHS data.

Experts, however, think otherwise.

Long delays in getting tested, receiving the test results, and growing public distrust on the accuracy of the results were the reasons why the number has decreased, they said, adding that the distrust stemmed from several recent scams involving fake Covid-19 tests and issuance of forged certificates.

With a continuous spike in fatalities and a total caseload of 2,26,225 as of yesterday, the country saw its highest daily cases between mid and late last month.

Then since the beginning of this month, there has been a downward trend in positive cases, despite the fact that the testing facilities were expanded to different laboratories.

It has happened apparently as the daily test numbers have come down, said the experts.

Between June 15 and 30, the health directorate tested over 15,000 samples every day except on July 20 when 14,031 samples were tested. The highest 18,498 samples were tested on June 26 at 66 laboratories across the country, shows DGHS data.

In July, the authorities tested more than 15,000 samples only on four days. As many as 10,078 tests were carried out across the country on July 26 at 88 labs, which has been the lowest for the months of June and July.

The Covid-19 testing began in the country on January 21 and the first three cases were reported on March 8.

The experts said they have long been suggesting that the daily test number be raised to 20,000 as doing so would help know the real Covid-19 situation in the country.

It is difficult to get any idea on the virus transmission with the existing test numbers, they argue, adding that the average test number in Bangladesh was inadequate compared to the country’s population and other coronavirus-hit neighbouring countries.

A country with a population of about 168 million, only 6,823 tests have been carried out against every one million people in Bangladesh, according to worldometer.info.

India has tested 12,171 samples per million people while it is 8,057 in Pakistan.

Infectious diseases specialist Prof Ridwanur Rahman said the inadequate testing would only help community transmission of the virus.

“To check the transmission, you have to test all Covid-19 suspects and send them into isolation if they test positive. Otherwise, the community transmission will go up,” he told The Daily Star today.

“People have lost confidence in the testing system and they consider it a trouble as it takes a long time to get the results,” Prof Ridwanur said.

“Therefore, the authorities have to bring back people’s confidence and encourage them to get tested,” he added.

Echoing a similar view, medical scientist Dr Liaquat Ali said there was no alternative to testing people to fight Covid-19.

But long delays in getting the results and people’s lack of confidence in the accuracy of the test results following some recent scams are the main reasons why many have become reluctant in getting tested, he said.

Dr Liaquat, also one of the eight members of Public Health Expert Divisional Advisors’ Group, then suggested bringing variation in the tests.

Instead of depending only on the RT-PCR testing, he said, the government can introduce an antigen test to increase the number of Covid-19 tests.

“Once the authorities bring variation to the testing, people will get more options. Then they will feel encouraged to get tested as they will get results within a short time,” he added.

Asked about the reasons behind the decline in the daily test numbers, Prof Nasima Sultana, additional director general (administration) at the DGHS, said there was a lack of interest among people.

Speaking at yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing, she said the decrease in infection rate made people not to show up for the tests.

She claimed the IEDCR in its survey has found that the infection rate has gone down in the country.

DEATH TOLL NEARS 3,000

The DGHS confirmed 37 more deaths and 2,772 new Covid-19 cases after testing 12,423 samples in 24 hours till 8:30am today.

With this, the death toll rose to 2,965 and the total number of infections 2,26,225, Prof Nasima said at the online briefing.

The death rate stood at 1.31 percent, she said.

Of the deceased, 26 were males and 11 were females. One was aged between 21 and 30, one between 31 and 40, seven were aged between 41 and 50, seven between 51 and 60, 12 between 61 and 70, eight between 71 and 80, and one was aged between 81 and 90, she said.

Of them, 24 were from Dhaka, five from Chattogram, three from Rangpur, two each from Khulna and Barishal, and one was from Mymensingh divisions.

Some 1,801 Covid-19 patients recovered in the 24 hours, taking the number of recovery cases to 1,25,683, Prof Nasima added.

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