Noted scientist Dr Bijon Kumar Sil is leaving Bangladesh for Singapore tomorrow with a heavy heart.
It is not clear whether he is leaving the country permanently or temporarily, but he wants to come back. The renowned scientist talked to The Daily Star today about his departure.
"I was frequently travelling between Bangladesh and Singapore. But this time, I feel saddened and pained. I was not informed that I will not get a work permit. The reason I'm dejected is that we created a Covid-19 kit, but we are yet to get approval. At the same time I was assuming that I would get my work permit within a short time," he said in a frustrated tone.
Gono University authority said it applied for a work permit for Dr Bijon. According to the procedure, all documents were submitted.
Another point is that once a work permit is given, the recipient has to leave Bangladesh and complete the visa procedure and then they can enter the country.
So, it is a procedural requirement for Dr Bijon to leave the country.
Gono University and Gonoshasthaya Kendra are very sensitive about Dr Bijon, and they do not want him to leave.
"Gono University has submitted necessary documents for a work permit and we are assuming that it will take some time to complete the process. I am fully respectful to due process and regulations," he said.
Dr Bijon said he was born and brought up in the country but currently he is a citizen of another country. "I'm a citizen of Singapore but Bangladesh is my birthplace. I don't want to even think that I will not get permission to work in the country where I was born."
He said it is not money he is after. "I want to work in my motherland. If I get a work permit then I have to submit the documents to Bangladesh embassy in Singapore. They will then give me an employment visa. I can then return."
He said if Gonoshasthaya Kendra gets approval then they can go for production of antigen and antibody test kit.
"My presence may be needed. If I can't be here, I will try to cooperate from Singapore," Bijon said.
Bijon's wife and two children live in Singapore. He has worked in the laboratory of Gonoshasthaya Kendra for the last seven months with his colleagues. He could not go to Singapore due to the Covid-19 situation.
He still believes that government will approve the antigen and antibody test kit he developed. He wants to stay in Bangladesh during the production.
"I do believe we are getting approval because our kit is unique. Through our antibody kit, we can examine whether antibody and neutralising antibody were created in the body," he said.
Dr Bijon said if neutralising antibody is created in the body, the person does not need any vaccine. "We cannot vaccinate 17 crore people. Another point is that we have to see whether neutralising antibody is created in the human body after vaccination. If antibody is not created then the vaccine is ineffective."
He stressed the need for antibody testing as vaccine alone will not help in getting rid of coronavirus.
Dr Bijon said the procedure for patent of Gonoshasthaya Kendra's testing kit has already been completed.
He said many countries in the world have already developed rapid test kit and started using them, although Bangladesh was the first country that made announcement of it.
Sources at Gonoshasthaya Kendra said some countries have already shown interest in producing the kit but the organisation wants to wait.
"We invented it first but could not release it in the market. I have to endure this disappointment for the rest of my life. But the good news is that we completed the patent. Other countries cannot produce our kit. From the beginning some countries showed interest to go for production and they still want to," Dr Bijon said.
"Dr Zafrullah Sir always wanted that people of the country will get the benefits of the kit at a minimum price. But if we don't get approval, we may consider alternatives," he said.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra, in the second week of March, announced the development of Dr Bijon Kumar Sil's antigen and antibody test kit. Then the organisation applied to the Directorate General of Drug Administration for approval. Many started saying that rapid test kit is not approved by World Health Organization and no country in the world is using the kits to detect coronavirus.
On June 17, BSMMU gave the antibody test kit report. Before that, antigen test kit examination was suspended for a few technical errors. Gonoshasthaya Kendra submitted the antigen test for approval to the authorities concerned again.
BSMMU results showed that antibody kit is successful in 70 percent of the cases. DGDA suggested to improve the quality of the kit, and did not give approval.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra and Dr Bijon improved the quality of the kit but the procedure of testing the effectiveness of it for the second time is almost impossible to fulfil. The matter has been pending since then.