Number of Covid-19 tests might seem low for these two reasons, says Health D-G

Jerry Choong
Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry is working to increase its screening capacity to 16,500 tests daily. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has explained why there appears to be a reduced number of Covid-19 screening tests.

Malaysiakini reported that although the government has increased the capacity of tests up to 11,500 daily, the average ratio reported is only around 3,000, raising questions over capacity.

“The number of daily tests is only for new suspected Covid-19 cases. Today, the total number of tests reported is 43,462, an increase by 2,979 compared to the previous day,” he was quoted as telling reporters in Putrajaya yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the public is not aware that the remainder of the test capacity is used on existing patients.

“Sometimes, we conduct the test on a patient four times. For example, either tomorrow or the day after coming in we check to see if it is positive or not, and after being allowed to return we do the screening twice.

“At times, we may even have to conduct even more tests. So the capacity is such that one person may have to undergo it five times,” he reportedly said.

The director-general said it is the Health Ministry’s policy to test patients at least twice in a span of just over 24 hours, and if both tests come back as negative, the patient is allowed to leave the hospital.

However, if the patient turns up as positive towards the end of his or her treatment, more tests will need to be conducted.

“The tests only detect positive cases, so it seems as though we only conduct 1,000 or 2,000 screenings. Our capacity also includes treatment, not just detection so even though we can conduct up to 11,000 tests, we use both treatment and detection.

“Currently, we are working to increase the screening capacity to 16,500 tests daily, at 48 laboratories nationwide. When the pandemic first started spreading, Malaysia’s screening capacity was 3,500 daily,” Dr Noor Hisham was quoted as saying.

He added the 16,500 target will also be supported by antigen flash tests, and that analysis is being conducted to determine the reliability and accuracy of the South Korean-manufactured kits.

“We will know whether that is the case or not by tomorrow (April 2) and if so, we will order up to 200,000 units from South Korea,” Dr Noor Hisham said.


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