Experts say labs cannot do tests as per their capacities for several reasons, including presence of only one PCR machine in most labs and lack of skilled manpower
Hundreds of people were waiting at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for Covid-19 testing at around 12:45pm. Some people queued outside the compound, which was full. They would disperse whenever it rained, aggravating their sufferings.
Abul Hasnat, a banker, said he had come at 10:30am and was still waiting for his turn.
"I made an appointment online yesterday," he said.
Bipul Chandra, a resident of Mugdapara, said, "I went to Mugda Medical College on Monday for a test, but could not give my sample even after waiting for around three hours."
"Then I went back home and tried to reach the health department through the hotline. At that point, one of my relatives told me to come to this hospital, and that is why I am here," he told The Business Standard.
Bipul arrived at 9am and talked to the duty doctor, who told him to wait as those who had made appointments earlier would be served first.
"Therefore, I am waiting," he added.
Karim, who was also waiting, said it was annoying to wait in a long queue as he was fasting. The rain only added to people's sufferings.
Jibon said he had come early in the morning but was yet to give his sample. "The authorities told me that there were some people who had got appointments earlier."
He said he was not aware of the online appointment system.
"I have come from Jatrabari, and there is no way to come here every day. So, I am waiting and do not even know if they will take my sample today at all,"added Karim.
Ashiq Khan, returning home after giving his sample, said, "I had to wait for around three hours even though I had made an appointment."
"Since early in the morning, people have been rushing here," he quoted hospital staff as saying, adding, "But there is no way to serve everybody at the same time."
Coronavirus testing began in only one lab on January 21. The number has grown to 43 now. The labs are capable of testing 15,000 samples a day.
On Wednesday, more than 10,000 tests were done for the first time. So far, 203,852 samples have been tested in the country.
Experts say labs cannot do tests as per their capacities for several reasons, including the availability of only one PCR machine in most labs, lack of skilled manpower, and absence of biosafety labs.
Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman, director of the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre, said a PCR machine could test 93 samples at one go, while a test took between two-and-a-half and three hours.
"Because of a scarcity of PCR machines and a shortage of manpower, samples are tested in shifts. But in our institution, we do tests round the clock. We have three PCR machines and can test over 1,000 samples a day," he said.
There are 16 labs where 140-350 tests are done a day. In most of the labs, the number is 93 or less. There are also labs where it is less than 10.
Testing has been suspended in several labs. There has been no test at Mugda hospital since May 7. Tests are also suspended at Dhaka University, Jashore Science and Technology University and Square Hospitals.
Habibur Rahman, additional secretary and chief of the health ministry's media cell, told a briefing on Wednesday that tests were being increased continuously.
He had a caveat, of course: "For that, we need skilled manpower and equipment. The whole world is facing a difficult time in handling this crisis. Still, we are trying to increase the number of tests," he added.
The health directorate has allowed 13 private hospitals and labs, including 11 in Dhaka, to do tests. Its acting director general, Professor Nasima Sultana, told The Business Standard that private labs would charge the official fee set by the government for tests.
"This will reduce the hassle of waiting in queues to give samples. We are working to increase tests further," she said.
Nasima Sultana said there were enough tests kits and importing more were on the way.
"We are supplying kits to labs as per demand," she added.