Even a few days ago, there were long queues and waiting times for Covid-19 testing
The Covid-19 sample collection booth inside Mugda Nursing Institute was empty at 2:30pm on Tuesday. No patients were waiting to give samples there.
The similar scene was observed in other Covid-19 testing centres and sites.
However, even a few days ago, there were long queues and waiting times for Covid-19 testing in front of hospitals and booths.
Many would stand in line at midnight to get a serial. But everything changed in the last few days.
Earlier, hundreds of people would rush to the Mugda Nursing Institute booth at 9am and wait in long queues till 5pm to give a sample, Golam Rosul Swapan, Medical technologist of Ideshi and also in charge of the booth, said.
This booth collected only 60 samples on Tuesday against the daily target of a minimum of 150 samples, Swapan informed.
"There are no long queues outside anymore. Only one or two patients are coming to be tested, although sample testing is completely free here."
"Now the poor patients are not coming at all. Only those who have to show Covid-19 test reports in the office are coming."
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is now calling on more people to provide samples for Covid-19 testing.
Not many people are now showing interest to get tested, DGHS Additional Director General Professor Nasima Sultana said.
"Earlier samples were collected from 9am to 3pm. People would even wait to give samples after 3pm. But now the testing booths are becoming empty by 1pm."
While urging people to give samples, Professor Nasima said testing is still free for the poor.
"There is a special arrangement to collect samples from home in Dhaka for those who need to get tested but cannot go to the booth. So do not get panicked."
Meanwhile, the number of tests conducted had hovered between 15,000 and 18,000 since June. But in July the number was around 10,000 to 13,000.
Experts say the recently imposed government fee and the fear of getting false result are making people avoid giving samples.
Also, the authorities shut down two hospitals and a testing centre in Dhaka over Covid-19 testing scams.
The former adviser to the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region Professor Muzaherul Huq told the Business Standard low-income people are not getting tested due to the test fees.
Also, many people would get tested in private labs to avoid trouble in public hospitals. But after the JKG and Regent scams, people do not have the trust to get tested at private labs either, Professor Muzaherul said.
"The only way to control Covid-19 is to isolate the infected person by testing. Now the infection rate is upward. This means we are still moving towards the peak. So we have to do more tests now."
Professor Ridwanur Rahman, medicine specialist and head of the research centre at Universal Medical College, told The Business Standard, "People should have been encouraged to give samples as they are not happy with the way the tests are conducted."
Now 80 labs across the country are conducting Covid-19 tests, DGHS said.
However, data shows that no test was conducted in five to ten labs every day. No samples were tested in five labs on July 19 and 11 labs on July 18.
Also, even in the labs where regular tests are performed, the test rate had marked a big fall.
The National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre, a major Covid-19 testing centre, tested the highest number of sample up to now.
On June 30, 3,222 samples were tested in its lab. Earlier, 2,500 to 3,000 samples were tested here. Now it has come down to below 800.
An official of DGHS told the Business Standard, a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine needs at least 90 samples to run.
But many private labs are not getting 90 samples a day now. So they perform the test when they have enough sample.