COVID-19: Lesser tests, lower cases and deaths: is the going on track?
July 25th, 2020 at 7:52 pm
COVID-19: Lesser tests, lower cases and deaths: is the going on track?

by Nazrul Islam:

The rate of tests for novel coronavirus has been gradually decreasing in Bangladesh, resulting in lower number of reported infections. Factors like imposition of fees, mandatory doctors’ prescription and floods in parts of the country are mainly blamed for the decline in the number of Covid-19 tests, causing in lower number of reporting of new cases. Doubts are still in the air that a densely populated country like Bangladesh has yet to cross the contamination peak by now.

People on the streets, shopping malls, mosques and churches and other public places seem to be least concerned as if Bangladesh is free of Covid-19. There has been no government announcement based on scientific data in place on those lines.   

Testing was highly recommended soon after the outbreak of the previously unknown virus in humans was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year. And Bangladeshi officials were crying foul that the country was “appropriately” prepared for handling the crisis.

But the crisis only began when they started working. The scene was seemingly vibrated with a group of brutes out to plunder public money in the name of services. The test was scandalized that led to the better exposition of grafts in the sector, arrest of hospital owners, physician, termination of top health official and reshuffle in the health administration. All these have put the entire handling of the virus into question when the government swung into action to curtail the spread of the outbreak.

Bangladesh so far conducted over 1.09 million tests since the first cases of novel coronavirus was reported in early March compared to more than 14 million in India, which are still conducting larger number of tests on average. Despite the health experts expect at least 20,000 test per day in Bangladesh given the intensity of the contagion, Bangladesh could not touch the 19,000 daily target as of now. The highest 18,498 it did on June 26. But the number of tests staggeringly decreased since then, and it was only 12,027 samples on Thursday despite the fact that the number of authorized laboratories across the country has risen to 80.  

With concerns by public health experts over the lower number of tests, the government has to find out whether a densely populated country like Bangladesh can afford such a pace of tests to counter the spread of the plague with nationwide lockdown relaxed nearly two months ago. Lack of people’s confidence on health services have seemingly left hundreds of hospital beds, dedicated for Covid-19 treatment, empty.

The new administration is in place need to concentrate on bringing back the public trust on the system. They must fathom the intensity of the crisis in a sound mind and take appropriate actions towards delivering the services to the people as promised.

They should keep in mind that this is a crisis of the century and none is apparently immune from it. If needed, Bangladesh must revise its strategy to offset the crisis linked to Covid-19.

The health experts might require to give into the demands for conducting more tests to keep the nation safe. The virus has infected nearly 16 million people with nearly 640,000 deaths globally. It is still travelling to remotest parts of the world, and we should not get complaisant with the lower infection and death rates based on the lower number of tests. Media reports say Bangladesh is among the nations which are at the bottom of the list in South Asia in terms of conducting tests. How realistic is it?

Bangladeshi journalist
Nazrul Islam is a journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The writer can be reached by e-mail ; [email protected]