GEORGE TOWN, Dec 24 — The Penang branch of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is collaborating with the Penang state government to roll out an affordable mass Covid-19 screening programme in the state.
The programme, called Penang S.A.F.E, will use a pooled RT-PCR testing method to reduce the costs of the tests, especially when large numbers of workers need to be tested.
FMM Penang branch chairman Datuk Jimmy Ong said Penang S.A.F.E provides a complete workflow for mass screening of workers in batches and it will be made available to factories in Penang for voluntary buy-in.
The package will include registration, scheduling for swabbing, RT-PCR test for pooled samples, results within 24 hours, alerts if there are positive results in the pool and notification of subsequent action.
“With buy-in from factories, it will meet the government requirement to screen all workers, especially foreign workers,” he said in a joint press conference with state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo in Komtar today.
The pooled RT-PCR testing method meant that swabs from a group of individuals, ideally five, will be tested in one RT-PCR test.
This meant that the five will share the cost of the one test, bringing the cost down for each individual to RM60.
Once there is a positive result for a pooled test, the group of individuals in the pool will then have to undergo another test, this time, using individual RT-PCR tests to identify those in the group that were positive.
Ong said ideally, each pool should have up to a maximum of five individuals for easier tracing if there is a positive result in the pooled testing method.
Jagdeep said the Penang S.A.F.E programme will enable large scale screenings of all workers in Penang.
“The main purpose of this programme is to allow for Covid-19 screening that is affordable, accessible and quick for everyone,” he said.
He said the test results for the pooled screening method can be obtained within 24 hours.
“If there are any positive cases, the Health Ministry will take over to conduct further screening of the individuals in the pool but if the results are negative, then there is no need for further action,” he said.
Jagdeep said pooled screening is also practised in India, Singapore and Australia.
“The results are 98 per cent accurate and are more reliable compared to the antigen test,” he said.
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