The Covid-19 infection rate hit new heights in January, but the actual number of positive cases may be far higher than reported because many people with symptoms are avoiding getting tested through RT-PCR.
Several people recently told The Asian Tribune they had taken antigen tests as it was faster and less expensive than RT-PCR. The tests came back negative, even though they were showing Covid-19 symptoms such as coughing and fever.
Experts said the best thing to do if someone was showing Covid-19 symptoms was to take an RT-PCR test, as it is far less likely to give a false negative than an antigen test.
If the RT-PCR test also comes back negative and the patient is still showing symptoms, they recommend that the patient isolate himself or herself until the symptoms go away completely.
Those who have come into contact with people showing Covid-19 symptoms should diligently wear masks when in public or at workplaces, even if the person with symptoms tests negative.
Mushtaq Hossain, adviser to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told The Asian Tribune negative antigen tests should always be verified through RT-PCR, especially if the patient is showing symptoms.
“The government has already issued instructions to confirm antigen tests through RT-PCR, but I am not sure if all private hospitals and testing centres are following this guideline,” he added.
Soma (not her real name) felt sick after returning home from work a week ago. First, she contracted a fever and cold, then she developed almost all the symptoms of coronavirus infection. Later, her cousin who shares the same apartment started showing symptoms as well.
They both got rapid antigen tests which came out negative. Neither of them confirmed the results through RT-PCR, but they had fully recovered within four days.
“The Omicron variant usually stays inside a host’s body for a shorter period compared to the other major variants. This is why people should get tested immediately when they show symptoms,” Dr Hossain said.
Becky Reynolds, director of public health for Bath and North East Somerset Council in the United Kingdom, recently told BBC: “If you are showing symptoms, then regard it as Covid and self-isolate even if the RT-PCR test comes back negative.”
The isolation period for Covid-19 was shortened this month. The National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 suggested on January 20 that the self-isolation period for people showing symptoms of the disease be shortened to 10 days from two weeks.
Moreover, the panel said people did not need to stay quarantined even after being in close contact with a Covid-19 patient if they were symptom-free.
Since the start of the pandemic in Bangladesh in early 2020, the panel had been recommending 14 days of isolation for Covid-19 patients and quarantine as a result of close contacts.