Test rate still very low
The country reported a record single-day surge of detected coronavirus cases -- 1,034 -- as the tally crossed the 15,000 mark, while 11 new deaths took the death toll to 239.
With testing facilities being gradually ramped up, 7,208 individuals' samples were tested in 35 laboratories in 24 hours till 2:30pm yesterday. Beginning on January 28, 1,29,865 samples have been tested as of yesterday, shows data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Experts however said the number of tests was still inadequate compared to the country's population and other coronavirus-hit countries.
They reiterated that testing was extremely crucial as it helps mitigation efforts, equipping investigators with the knowledge to examine the characteristics, prevalence and spread of any disease.
In a country of about 168 million people, the testing rate is only 0.71 per 1,000 people as of Saturday, according to ourworldindata.org.
The rate is higher in India and Pakistan. In India, it is 1.17 tests per 1,000 and 1.28 in Pakistan.
This rate is 34 per thousand in Spain, 41 in Italy, 12.7 in France, 15.8 in Turkey and 18.71 in the United Kingdom, according to ourworldindata.org.
In the United States, slightly more than 26 tests are being done per 1,000 people while it is 28.3 in Canada.
Among the European countries, Iceland tops the list with around 156 tests per 1,000 people. Other countries are far behind this Nordic country of 364,134 people, shows the data.
Experts in Bangladesh said with the existing number of daily tests, it was difficult to predict how fast the disease was spreading.
"We've no way other than increasing the test numbers to know the real situation. Otherwise, we will not be able to take the right decision for the days ahead," Prof Ridwanur Rahman, a medicine and infectious disease specialist, told The Daily Star yesterday.
"As the virus has spread to all parts of the country, the more tests are done, the more [coronavirus] cases are likely to come to light," he said.
Echoing a similar view, Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, said, "It's not possible to any take decision based on the data currently available. We will need at least 10,000 tests per day immediately.
"On Sunday, some 15.4 percent of samples tested turned out to be coronavirus positive. Today, the rate is 14.3. It suggests that the transmission rate did not change," he said.
If test numbers are increased, case detection will also increase, he added.
Both experts pointed out that the number of detected cases had started to go up after the authorities began expanding the testing facilities in the first half of last month.
They stated that there were many hidden cases and unreported deaths caused by the deadly virus.
They also claimed although the ongoing countrywide shutdown helped bring down the transmission rate, proper benefits could not be reaped due to the failure to ensure contact tracing of infected patients.
They warned that the country would have to pay a heavy price if the situation worsened further.
During a daily briefing on the coronavirus situation, Prof Nasima Sultana, additional director general (administration) at the DGHS, said the total number of confirmed Covid-19 patients stood at 15,691 yesterday.
She said 252 patients recovered in 24 hours till 2:30pm, taking the total number of recovery cases to 2,902.
"The recovery rate now stands at 18.52 percent and mortality rate at 1.53 percent," said Prof Nasima.
Of the 11 deceased, six were female and five male. Eight of them died in Dhaka Division, two in Chattogram and one in Rangpur Division, which saw the first such death.
One of the deceased was aged between 21 and 30, two between 31 and 40, two between 41 and 50, four between 51 and 60, one between 60 and 70 while the other between 71 and 80.
So far, the highest number of detected cases -- around 60 percent -- are in Dhaka city, shows DGHS data.
The authorities reported the first three cases on March 8 and the first death from Covid-19 on March 18.