Govt has adequate testing kits, protective gear: health minister
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque today claimed that the government has adequate testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to deal with the novel coronavirus.
"I want to say that we now have adequate number of PPE and testing kits. We are receiving 30,000-40,000 kits every day," he said at a press briefing at his ministry in the Secretariat.
He said the ministry was getting the test kits locally with some private companies assigned to produce it.
Maleque said they have around two lakh PPEs in stock and two lakh more will arrive from different countries this month. Besides, the ministry is distributing 20,000 to 30,000 PPEs to the hospitals across the countries, he said.
The health minister also said they were prepared and that the country's situation was still better than many others.
"I am still saying that we are well-prepared. No one makes PPE pre-emptively," Maleque said in reply to a query.
China, which manufactures PPE, did not have enough when the Covid-19 broke out.
He said they wanted to procure PPE from China even before Bangladesh reported the first positive cases, but China did not allow it.
Citing examples of the USA and India, he said, "I don't know whether any state had thought of it about three months earlier. No one can prepares for everything in advance."
Experts, however, said the minister's claim may ring untrue if the virus spreads to community level and that there is no room for complacency.
They said following confirmation of the first coronavirus cases in Bangladesh, demand for PPEs among health workers rose sharply.
Many public hospitals across the country have set up isolation units for possible coronavirus patients, but a lot of them lack adequate resources and equipment to provide necessary services.
Talking about the issue, Prof Nazrul Islam, virologist and former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said "Such type of complacency may turn the situation grave. We need many PPEs."
"It is not like everybody needs to wear PPEs right now, but we have to take preparations for any situation," he told The Daily Star.
Meanwhile, the minister at the press conference also said Covid-19 testing labs will be set up in some major hospitals across the country within the next few days.
"Already we have such testing labs… we will set up more labs in some important hospitals including Dhaka Medical College Hospital and BSMMU," he said.
He said Covid-19 tests are continuing and they have so far conducted 250 such tests.
"We had preparation and that is why we managed to quarantine 20,000 people," he said.
He also urged the returnees from abroad to go to self-quarantine and inform the authorities concerned about it.
"Do not cause harm to the people of the country," he urged the returnees from abroad.
Prof MA Faiz, former Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services said, "May be he [minister] has said it as there are still 33 [Covid-19] cases in the country. He has nothing to do beyond the report he gets from the officials of lower departments concerned."
"As we are not testing enough number of cases, there remains a doubt about the reality," he added.