By Azad Majumder
Dhaka, July 8 (efe-epa).- Bangladesh authorities have sealed two branches of a hospital and arrested several of its officials for allegedly issuing fake Covid-19 test reports, the police said on Wednesday, raising questions about the credibility of the coronavirus testing operation in the country.
A team of elite police unit Rapid Action Battalion sealed off the Mirpur unit of the capital’s Regent Hospital on Wednesday, RAB deputy director Rakbul Hasan told EFE.
Hasan said another branch of the hospital in Dhaka’s Uttara area was sealed on Tuesday as “they provided people with (coronavirus) report without testing their samples.”
Authorities have arrested eight people in the case and a total of 17 people, including group chairman Md Shahed, allegedly linked to the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, have been charged under various offenses.
RAB magistrate Sarwoer Alam, who led the raids, told reporters that the hospital authorities had collected samples from many people but abandoned them without testing.
“They were supposed to collect the samples of their patients and test them through government organizations. But they did not do it,” Alam said on Tuesday night.
He said the investigators had found that the hospital had got 4,264 samples duly tested through government labs, but had issued more than 6,000 fake reports without testing.
The hospital authorities allegedly collected the samples in their head office, which is not a hospital, and gathered samples taken over five to seven days before they were simply trashed.
“It has many consequences (…) when a positive patient is given a negative report, they move around and (potentially) infect hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
RAB spokesperson Sarwar bin Kashem told reporters on Wednesday that they were also investigating some other allegations against Shahed, who identifies himself as a member of Awami League’s foreign affairs sub-committee.
However, Hashem played down the political link, saying “a cheat has no political identity (…) they use it to confuse people.”
The scandal has led to an uproar with opposition politicians demanding strict action against the perpetrators.
“We are not happy with just the RAB raid,” Harunur Rashid, a lawmaker of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said during a parliament session.
Bangladesh has been struggling to contain the spread of the Covid-19, with the directorate general of health services reporting 46 new deaths on Wednesday that took the total number of fatalities to 219.
A total of 3,489 fresh cases were reported during the last 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 172,134.
Bangladesh had imposed a lockdown on March 26 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, although the measures dealt a severe blow to the country’s economy. The restrictions were eased on May 31, except in the worst affected areas. EFE-EPA