Application engineer and molecular biologists of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine vendors will provide training to the people deployed in the newly set up laboratories for Covid-19 tests across the country as part of expansion of coronavirus test.
The government has been working to prepare 28 laboratories for Covid-19 tests by April this year.
At present 10 labs in Dhaka and five labs outside Dhaka are conducting PCR tests.
The 10 labs in Dhaka are at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Institute of Public Health and Nutrition (IPHN), ICDDR,B, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Dhaka Shishu Hospital, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives (ideSHi), Dhaka Medical College Hospital, National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre (NILMRC) and Kurmitola General Hospital.
Outside Dhaka, bio-safety labs have been prepared at Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Disease in Chattogram, Mymensingh Medical College Hospital, Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, Rangpur Medical College Hospital and Cox's Bazar Medical College Hospital.
Of those, PCR machines are being installed at Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Cox's Bazar Medical College Hospital labs.
Director General of DGHS Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad told the FE that the testing facilities will be expanded to the whole country. There are 800 staff working under EPI ('Expanded Programme on Immunization'). EPI has set ups at upazila and district level. Those technologists have been trained up for sample collection.
Regarding the shortage of virologists, he said the microbiologists of the PCR machine suppliers will provide training for two weeks. If that time is not enough for the health ministry workforce to run the PCR tests for COVID-19, those microbiologists will continue work. Besides, a committee headed by Dhaka University vice-chancellor has been formed to coordinate with all the deans of the public universities. The microbiology labs of those universities will also be used for COVID-19 tests if necessary, he added.
Talking to the FE, Director of National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre (NILMRC) Professor Dr Shamsuzzaman said that they have been asked to test the samples sent to them by different government hospitals around the area. But they will not collect samples. The hospitals which will be able to send the samples to the Dhaka Shishu Hospital and NILMRC are -- Suhrawardy Hospital, National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, Kidney Institute, NIPORT, Mental Health Institute, Shyamoli TB Hospital and Neuroscience Institute.
There are three PCR machines installed and commissioned at NILMRC. One PCR machine can run a test of 96 samples at a time. The result is given within four hours.
The institute has got 200 test kits and tested one sample so far.
"As we can run 282 sample tests at a time in three shifts by one machine, we need huge samples to utilise the full capacity which is not currently available. That's why we run one test in 24 hours," said Dr Zaman.
"If the government allows us to train up technologists to make a pool for sample collection, this institute will be used at its full capacity in this pandemic," he said.
He said they have one virologist now to work for COVID-19 test, but the main activities will be done by 10 molecular biologists including himself.