Two new laboratories are going to open in Chattogram by next week for testing Covid-19 samples, aiming to increase the testing capacity to 350 from the present capacity of around 150 a day.
The laboratories are at Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) and Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (CVASU).
Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury is scheduled to inaugurate testing activities in CVASU today, said sources.
Currently, Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) is the only institution in Chattogram to test Covid-19.
Many collected samples are left untested for four to five weeks at the BITID laboratory as doctors and technicians there are struggling to cope with the pressure of increasing demand.
Just to give an idea, 140 samples were tested in BITID on Tuesday while around 700 were left untested. The institution has to collect samples from at least eight districts of Chattogram division, according to sources involved with the process.
Under these circumstances, adding two more laboratories would bring a much-needed relief for the overburdened staff members at the BITID laboratory and it would also help patients through giving them the test reports in a short time, said Prof Dr Shakil Ahmed, in-charge of BITID laboratory.
The laboratories are set up at the microbiology department of CMCH and the molecular biology department of CVASU.
A PCR machine from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) came to CMCH on Monday while a technical team has started installing the machine in a newly-built laboratory maintaining protocol, said CMCH Director Brig Gen Humayun Kabir yesterday.
"We expect to start testing by next Saturday," he said, adding, "Initially, we will test 100 samples a day."
Meanwhile, CVASU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Gautam Buddha Das received a letter signed by an additional director general of DGHS on Tuesday requesting him to start Covid-19 testing.
"We've got 500 testing kits from DGHS and the deputy minister for education will inaugurate the testing activities on Thursday and we will start testing on Saturday," said Prof Gautam. "We will test around 100 samples a day," he said, adding, "We will not collect samples ourselves, we will test the ones collected by BITID."
Dr Shakil Ahmed of BITID said, "Our daily collection of samples is around 350 but we can test at best 150 with the existing manpower and logistics," he said. Patients will be benefited because of the two new laboratories, he added.
Contacted, Dr Hasan Shahriar Kabir, divisional director of DGHS, said the number of testing samples would increase threefold in Chattogram once the laboratories become fully operational.