The health ministry has decided to use rapid testing kits in order to increase the number of daily Covid-19 tests and reduce the burden on RT-PCR based tests.
To that end, it is now revising testing protocols, Md Mostafa Kamal, additional secretary of the ministry, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“We will get the final guidelines from the technical team by next Sunday and then we will submit it to the minister for the final approval. We hope the entire process will be complete by next week,” said Mostafa, who leads the nine-member inter-ministerial task force formed by the government.
The National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) recommended the use of rapid testing kits three months ago to ease the pressure on the pathology services.
The additional secretary said the task force is focusing on how to increase daily testing and “the initiation of rapid testing and reduction of the fees are parts of it.”
“Like many other countries, we need to allow such [rapid] testing to detect more infected people,” he added.
For more than a month, the day-to-day positive rate has remained stagnant at over 20 percent, which is much higher than the five percent parameter indicating that transmission is under control.
Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are easy-to-use paper tests to facilitate testing outside of laboratory settings within a few minutes to half an hour.
There are two types: antigen-based and antibody-based testing.
The antigen-based rapid testing is a molecular test — alternative to the sophisticated RT-PCR tests — which detects the presence of the virus itself, while the antibody tests look for past presence of the virus and a possible immune response to the infection.
On June 24, the drug administration also published a notice on its website, saying kits with minimum 90 percent sensitivity and 95 percent specificity will be approved.
However, there was no further progress in this regard despite experts’ strong recommendations.
Contacted, Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the NTAC, told The Daily Star yesterday, “If it is true, it is good news. It will end people’s suffering from standing in long queues for RT-PCR tests.”
Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said they were considering the rapid testing.
“Whether antigen or antibody, we will go for whichever is good for the people,” he told reporters.
REDUCTION TESTING FEES
The government has reduced Covid-19 testing fees by 50 percent and the health minister signed the official order in this regard yesterday.
“We have information that many of the poor have lost the urgency to get tested. We had a discussion with the prime minister in this regard. Now the fees have been reduced. We hope the number of tests will increase,” the minister said after signing the order.
The fees have been reset as follows: Tk 100 for sample collection from government designated centres and Tk 300 for samples collected from home.
Earlier, the fees were Tk 200 and 500.
On June 29, the health ministry set the fees for Covid-19 tests, which were earlier free under state-owned facilities.
POSITIVITY RATE DECREASED
Meanwhile, the positivity rate of Covid-19 testing has decreased to 18.72 percent yesterday after around a month and half.
On July 5, this rate was 19.57 percent — the lowest during this period.
In the past 24 hours till 8:30am yesterday, 41 people have died from Covid-19 in the country, according to a press release issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The total number of deaths has now reached 3,781 and the death rate stands at 1.33 percent.
Among the dead, 34 were male and seven were female.
One was aged between 31 and 40, five between 41 and 50, 11 between 51 and 60 and the remaining 24 were above 60.
At the same period, 2,747 people tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of positive cases to 2,85,091. A total of 14,678 samples were tested in 91 labs across the country yesterday.
The overall positivity rate stood at 20.46 percent, according to the release.
Some 2,913 Covid-19 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, taking the number of recoveries to 1,65,738 — more than 58 percent of all confirmed cases.