Covid-19 testing must be ramped up immediately
According to a report published by The Daily Star yesterday, Bangladesh ranks lowest among the South Asian countries in terms of Covid-19 testing, with only 30 tests per 1,000 people. Yesterday, there were 7,201 confirmed cases against 34, 968 tests, which takes the current positivity rate to 20.59 percent.
According to the WHO, a positive test rate between three to 12 percent is indicative of sufficient testing. The aforementioned DS report highlights health experts suggesting doubling of the current number of daily tests, until the positivity rate comes down to six or seven percent. It is widely known that testing and containment of a virus are closely linked. While adequate testing gives a true picture of infections and facilitates subsequent measures that are of great importance to fight an epidemic, insufficient levels of testing makes it difficult to identify infected individuals and their locations, trace their close contacts, contain the infection by quarantining infected individuals and provide medical support if required, and isolate others who may have come in contact with infected individuals. Thus, we urge the authorities to listen to the experts and act immediately to increase the rate of Covid-19 testing in Bangladesh.
There are some underlying reasons behind the low number of Covid-19 tests, the most obvious being the high costs of testing in most private facilities and the shortage of testing kits and long queues in the public ones. Another report published in The Daily Star on December 19, 2020 showed that while there are a total of 137 Covid-19 testing facilities across the country, the testing capacity had decreased due to low turnout. The report pointed towards the unwillingness of people in getting tested and insufficient awareness-raising campaigns conducted by the government.
The government has to reinitiate its awareness-building campaigns to influence people in getting tested. The number of testing facilities has to be increased and an adequate amount of testing kits has to be ensured. Most importantly, as the ongoing coronavirus crisis has had severe economic repercussions, especially for the most marginalised, the government must ensure that Covid-19 tests are made available at highly subsidised rates so that economic hardships do not hold people back from getting tested. Without the true picture of how widespread the current transmission of Covid-19 is, it will be extremely difficult for the authorities to get the second wave of the pandemic under control.