Health experts alarmed over COVID-19 test fees in Bangladesh

A man gets tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 3, 2020. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Health experts alarmed over COVID-19 test fees in Bangladesh

  • Decision comes amid surge in coronavirus cases

DHAKA: Health experts in Bangladesh are warning of an increased risk of coronavirus transmission following the government’s decision to introduce fees for COVID-19 tests.

The Health Ministry on Monday decided to charge $2 for testing for the virus at government-run facilities, and $6 if samples are collected at the patient’s home. The fees were introduced with immediate effect, according to the ministry’s notice.

The announcement came amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. As of Tuesday, the number of known COVID-19 infections reached 145,000, and at least 1,847 Bangladeshis have succumbed to the disease.

So far, 766,000 tests have been conducted at 68 laboratories in the country of nearly 165 million people.

Dr. Mozaherul Huq, former World Health Organization regional director for East Asia, said the government’s decision will adversely affect its COVID-19 response as the fee will discourage poorer people, even with coronavirus symptoms, from undergoing screening.

“It will affect case detection and thereby contact tracing and isolation as well as quarantine, resulting in more transmission,” he added.

Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data indicate that around 20 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

“Now many people will remain out of the screening system as they can’t bear the testing fees,” the country’s renowned virologist Dr. Nazrul Islam told Arab News.

“We’ll only get a test result from people of affordable classes, so the data will definitely be incomplete.”

Justifying the government’s decision, Dr. Shahnila Ferdousi, director of the Center for Disease Control, told Arab News that the fees will “discourage” people from undergoing “unnecessary testing.”

She said: “We’ve noticed that many people are conducting tests every week just because it’s free, although they don’t have any COVID-19-like symptoms. The government has some limitations in its resources and ability.”

She added, however, that free tests will be considered for those who cannot afford the fees. “People who are currently under different social safety net programs of the government can be considered for free testing,” she said.


India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

Updated 37 min 38 sec ago

India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

  • Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May
  • The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley

NEW DELHI: India’s external affairs minister said Saturday that Indian and Chinese troops are disengaging from a monthslong standoff along the countries’ undemarcated border following a clash last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s remarks came a day after China’s ambassador to India said that Indian and Chinese front-line troops are disengaging in accordance with an agreement reached by their military commanders.
“It’s very much a work in progress,” Jaishankar said, adding that both sides agreed on the need to disengage because troops are deployed very close to each other.
The Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, said Friday that the two countries should be partners rather than rivals and handle their differences properly to bring their ties back on the right track.
Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh.
The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China. India says that 20 of its soldiers were killed in the June 15 clash and that there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.
China hasn’t confirmed any casualties on its side.
Through video conferencing on Friday, senior foreign ministry officials from the two countries reviewed the progress made in the disengagement process by the two armies at the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control.
The disputed border covers about 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier and stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.
India and China fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.