The government is going to start alternative, rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 in the country on Saturday, officials concerned told The Financial Express.
Though not considered as accurate as PCR test results, the antigen test, according to medical literature, can quickly generate results, detecting the presence or absence of coronavirus antigen in the patient’s body.
This method is being applied to widen sample testing facilities as, primarily, mostly frontier administrative districts, if not all, will be brought under the testing programme, said the officials.
The districts are - Panchagarh, Gaibandha, Joypurhat, Patuakhali, Meherpur, Munshiganj, Brahmanbaria, Jashore, Madaripur and Sylhet.
According to the authorities, the antigen testing, which will be available in the government-run hospitals only, has mainly been taken for the areas where PCR testing is not possible and infection rate is relatively high.
“We’ve arranged training for health staff for conducting smooth antigen testing and it will continue,” Professor Nasima Sultana, additional director (admin) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said on Friday.
“The antigen test is not recommended for all. Person who fulfils the criteria to come for the test will only be allowed,” she added.
Health experts and the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) for Covid-19 have long been urging the government to take measures to enhance testing capacity with at least 25,000-30,000 testing a day.
The DGHS and the NTAC on Covid-19, among others, asked the government to introduce antigen and antibody testing.
Taking the experts' calls into consideration, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 17 September approved the antigen testing that is now set for the kick-off.
According to the health ministry’s guidelines on the antigen test, if someone comes positive in the antigen test, s/he will be considered 100 per cent coronavirus positive, and need no other testing to detect Covid-19.
However, if a suspected patient in antigen test is shown negative, the patient will then be suggested to undergo the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) lab testing, the guidelines explained, suggesting the testing within 1-7 days if someone has Covid-19 symptoms.
The ministry has permitted the antigen testing by following the interim guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) published on September 11.