Covid-19 testing: Private sector and educational institutes can do their part

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 28 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: The private sector and higher learning institutes could be roped in to assist rapid mass testing to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, says one expert.

Lung Cancer Network Malaysia co-founder Dr Tho Lye Mun said there was a need to carry out between 10,000 and 20,000 tests a day.

“The Health Ministry has done an exemplary job in this regard with its strategy of contact tracing and isolation.

“However, we need to plan for an increase in number of cases, and ramp up our testing machinery to handle between 10,000 and 20,000 samples per day.

“This is where both public and private universities that have testing equipment could play a role in assisting the authorities to carry out mass rapid tests.

“They have the equipment and technical expertise to assist the authorities, ” he said when contacted Saturday (March 28).

The Health Ministry has already started evaluating new South Korean and Chinese test kits for Covid-19 at the Sungai Buloh Hospital and is looking to ramp up testing, Health director-general Datuk Seri Noor Hisham Abdullah said earlier Saturday (March 28).

Meanwhile Dr Tho, who is a consultant clinical oncologist, said private hospitals could help collect samples and send them over to designated laboratories.

He said South Korea had successfully contained the pandemic within its borders by carrying out rapid mass testing, and he called upon the public to take the movement control order (MCO) seriously.

Dr Tho added that lung cancer patients may be more vulnerable to the disease due to a depressed immune system.

“We advocate strict social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and testing if your doctor feels you may be at risk of having contracted Covid-19, ” he said.

He added that in a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association on March 11, doctors in Beijing had found that the swab technique failed to pick up the virus in up to one-third of the patients.

“This emphasises the need to develop better testing strategies, and also for doctors to understand the clinical presentation of the disease and take a full contact and travel history from patients.

“Apart from doctors and nurses, those conducting tests at laboratories are also frontliners. They too are racing against time to keep the nation safe, ” he said.

Dr Tho also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration had recently approved rapid test kits that could deliver results within the hour.

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