DU halts Covid-19 testing at its labs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 02, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:27 AM, June 02, 2020

DU halts Covid-19 testing at its labs

VC, committee convener and member cite differing reasons

Dhaka University authorities yesterday stopped coronavirus testing facilities at its laboratories.

Vice-chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman said the decision was taken since the university now has to return the laboratory apparatus, which were being used in the labs, to the respective departments for their academic purpose.

The university notified the  ministry of health of this on May 26, and the decision was taken beforehand,  said the DU VC.

"It's a university, not a hospital. The lab apparatus we brought from our three departments, need to be returned to the departments for their research purpose. The apparatus needs to be disinfected and reinstalled to their previous places. That's why coronavirus samples will no longer be tested," Prof Akhtaruzzaman told The Daily Star.

As many as 400 samples were tested per day with two PCR machines installed at the lab. The kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were provided by the health ministry, and the university bore the other costs for testing.

Convener of the university's coronavirus  response technical committee said they took the decision due to financial limitations.

Talking to The Daily Star, Prof Sharif Akhteruzzaman said they need at least Tk 15 to 20 lakh a month to conduct the testing; to bear the expenses is difficult and an extra pressure on the university, he said.

"Besides, those working at the laboratories are not being provided with sufficient facilities and safety. At least they should have been given some incentive. But we did not get any response from the ministry after informing them about it," he added.

However, Prof Mamun Ahmed, a member of technical committee,  told The Daily Star that testing has been stopped due to lack of coordination between the ministry and the university administration.

"Health Ministry did not cooperate with the university. The university also failed to get what they needed from the ministry," said Prof Mamun.

Another reason behind the lack of coordination could be commercial interest of some vested quarters, he said.

Prof Mamun also said they could have conducted research on improving the quality of testing kits and on the virus. "The testing kits provided by the government have some limitations, and we saw several faulty results. We could conduct research to improve the testing kit quality and the testing process," he said.

The Daily Star contacted three alumni of DU's science faculty who had volunteered at the lab to ask about their experience of working there, but none of them agreed to talk, even anonymously.  

A month after writing to the health ministry stating their capacity to run coronavirus tests,the DU authorities got approval from the ministry on April 27 and started testing samples from May 5.

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