COVID-19 test kit — a useless battle?
April 27th, 2020 at 9:43 pm
COVID-19 test kit — a useless battle?

by Nadeem Qadir;

At a time when the health sector should be totally concentrating on getting rid of COVID-19 from the country, it appears that one simple issue is eating away a large chunk of their time, especially as it involves a doctor-cum-politician.

It is a useless battle over a test kit produced in Bangladesh by Ganansasthya Kendro and has been discussed widely at home and abroad with political connotations. Politics over a test kit that can save many lives?  

Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder trustee of Gonosasthaya Kendra, has spoken to the media number of times by organising press conferences, while the government’s drug administration said that the kit has to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) before hitting the market.

The last media battle this author witnessed was sad as the man who is the father of this much talked about test kit for COVID-19, Dr Bijon Kumar Shil, came out with his political identity as if politics has held up the whole process.

It is sad that the question had to be placed by the reporter because many readers smelled politics in it, which I hope is not true and I find no good reason it to be so.


Dr. Chowdhury, who is an advisor to Khaleda Zia, the chief of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told the media that the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) did not accept coronavirus testing kits invented by his Kendra for approval.

“They said the kits were unapproved…but we want to give those to the DGDA so that you can check. We’re told yesterday that they (government representatives) would not come to receive those as part of a visit promised earlier. So, we went there today,” he said on Saturday.

Major General Mahbubur Rahman, director general at the drug administration, told the media that firstly, the Gonoshasthaya Kendra would have to submit samples to the drug administration, which will send the samples to the WHO for getting its sell approval. Only on a WHO approval, the drug administration will give Kendra the permission to sell the kits in Bangladesh

Sounds fair and good, but why such a loud public debate?  Then, why the kit samples were “refused” (!) and why make a public issue out of it?

Such matters are not meant to be fed to the media in every step of the way as the whole issue is sensitive due to the current critical health issue time. By going to the media at every opportunity, the issue apparently got the bad smell of politics.

Dr. Zafrullah, with all due respect, should have done the job quietly and not panic government men by seeking media headlines which presumably made the issue complex. 

An irrelevant issue has come into forefront by possibly “using” the media, which is now competing for new angles to coronavirus stories to sell.

Rapid test kit pack

Wrong moves by the drug administration, as far as its dealings on the issues as carried by the media are correct, also contributed to the drill.

It is only fair to accept the kits and send them for approval to WHO. If needed, the kits can be sent to 200 more organizations for approval. Why not test in Dhaka too just to understand if what Dr. Zafrullah has been claiming, is true or false?

If ok, then concerned authorities should rush for WHO approval as the kits are readily available and cheaper in comparison to imported ones.

Earlier, the authorities concerned “welcomed” the Kendra’s initiative and permitted it to import raw materials, while the National Board of Revenue also assured the Kendra of duty-free facilities for the import of required items to make the test kit.

Once again, the question remains has the issue been politicised on purpose to demean the government or is it the pressure of crisis that pushed both sides to take impractical steps.

The raw materials for the kits, Rapid Dot Blot, is available in the United States, the UK, China and Switzerland. Kendra imported them from Britain.

Let us not see any more of this media briefs or comments. Both sides should quietly and decently settle the matter so that, if approved by WHO, so that people are saved from the attack of COVID-19 and lives are not lost. Stop the blame game and get into action.

Nadeem Qadir is a senior Bangladeshi journalist and a Dag Hammarskjöld fellow,-