Coronavirus testing facilities to be extended to divisional cities: health minister

Health minister Zahid Maleque on Sunday iterated in a video conference that the testing facilities for coronavirus (COVID-19) would be extended to divisional cities in a short time.

Though at least six people died in the districts on the day with symptoms of novel coronavirus infection, the government is yet to come up with an official declaration.

Earlier, the minister said, ‘Many people are saying that we lack preparation, but it is not true, we have been preparing since the first week of January and we expect to install coronavirus testing centres in all divisions within three to four days.’

He was responding to questions during a regular online briefing by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research over the COVID-19 situation.

The minister further argued that many people questioned the low identification of COVID-19 patients in Bangladesh, but it was not right to expect an increased number of patients.

Asked about the death of Sultan Sheikh, 70, son of Abdul Gafur from Kalia of Narail at the isolation unit at Khulna Medical College Hospital, the minister who took part in the conference, said, ‘The man was treated at the isolation unit as he had symptoms of COVID-19 but we could not confirm if he was positive or not as we still have no testing facilities.’

Till the beginning of this week, the IEDCR was the sole agency to test suspected COVID-19 patients where test seekers in long queue remained waiting due to limited capacity to collect samples.

This week, three other test facilities — two in Dhaka and one Chattogram — were installed.

He said that the government is testing all the suspected patients, but he kept silent when asked about the daily capacity of testing by the labs and the capacity of collecting samples per day.

Zahid Maleque said that the government procured over 3 lakh personal protective equipment for doctors and 5 lakh more were in the pipeline.

The minister contradicted the reports published in different newspapers citing the documents of the Directorate General of Health Services that only 29 ICU beds were allocated for COVID-19 patients and no ICU beds were allocated outside the capital.

‘Such reports are not true,’ Zahid said, adding, ‘500 ventilation units have been procured and are being installed across the country and 350 more are in the pipeline.’

He, however, did not answer when asked how many of them were allocated for COVID-19 patients.

The DGHS data showed that there were 500 ICU beds at the government hospitals across the country and only 29 of them were allocated for COVID-19 patients.

Zahid Maleque said they directed hospitals outside the capital to allocate some of the ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

The minister claimed that the preparation for COVID-19 patients was praised by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations.

The health minister said that it was good news for the country that no new patients were identified nor did anyone died in the two consecutive days.

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