Covid-19 testing expansion policy lost in bureaucracy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:32 AM, September 19, 2020

Editorial

Covid-19 testing expansion policy lost in bureaucracy

At this point, it seems we are waiting for Godot

Almost six and a half months after the first novel coronavirus case was reported in the country, the Covid-19 testing expansion policy of the government seems to have gotten lost in the deep, dark crevices of our bureaucracy. A draft policy, formulated in July to be passed and implemented on an urgent basis, has gone through multiple iterations involving different bodies of the health ministry, ­­with considerable delays at each end. However, as of yet, there's no word on when, if ever, the policy will be finalised.

The final draft of the Covid-19 testing expansion policy recommended introducing antigen rapid testing to expand efforts to identify people infected with the novel virus. On August 24, the health minister himself stated that the government would start antigen rapid testing in public Covid-19 labs. But almost a month has passed without any significant developments in this regard; and without finalisation of the above-mentioned policy, the promise of convenient, fast and affordable testing for the masses remains a chimera. Time is of the essence when it comes to implementing the right policies to contain a pandemic—our policymakers, unfortunately, are completely oblivious of the need to move and act fast.

Meanwhile, while epidemiologists and the World Health Organization has insisted on the importance of mass testing, Bangladesh appears to be pursuing a Covid-19 testing reduction policy, conducting the lowest levels of testing in the world with just 10,465 tests per one million people. This is in addition to introducing a charge for tests which has, by and large, excluded the working class. We have yelled ourselves hoarse trying to convince our policymakers of the urgency of conducting mass tests which are accessible, reliable and efficient, and we must plead with them once again to finalise the policy within the shortest possible time so that we can finally start implementing what we should have done months ago.

There is simply no excuse for bureaucratic complacency when people's lives are on the line.   

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