Health DG explains why reported Covid-19 tests appear below capacity

Hariz Mohd


CORONAVIRUS | The government has touted the country's improved Covid-19 testing capability which has now increased to 11,500 tests a day.

But the average daily reported tests of only up to 3,000 has raised questions on whether the testing regime is running below capacity. However, Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah explained that this is not the case.

He explained that the reported daily number of tests are only for new Covid-19 suspects.

Today, the overall tests conducted was reported to be at 43,462, which is an increase of 2,979 tests from yesterday.

What is not known to the public, he said, is that the remaining test capacity is being used for existing patients.

"Sometimes, we need to do three to four tests on an (existing) patient. For example, when they are admitted [...] then when we want to discharge them, we need to do two more times.

"Sometimes a person needs up to four or five tests so that consumes the capacity," he told journalists in Putrajaya today.

It is the Health Ministry's policy to test patients twice in a period of more than 24 hours and both results must return negative before they can be discharged.

Noor Hisham Abdullah

He said the number of tests could be more if patients are tested at the tail end of their treatment with plans to discharge but one of their tests still returned positive.

"So our capacity is also for treatment, not only for tracking. The 11,000 (a day) tests that we can do, we use for both treatment and tracking.

"But the data that we report is only for tracking [...] that is why it appeared as if we are only doing 1,000 to 2,000 tests a day," he said.

He stressed that the government is working on increasing this capacity to 16,500 tests a day across all 48 laboratories in the country, adding that when the Covid-19 outbreak began, Malaysia testing capacity was only at 3,500 a day.

He added that the 16,500 target will also be bolstered by anti-gen-based rapid testing kits.

He said tests are being done to determine the reliability and accuracy of the rapid testing kits from S Korea and the outcome of the testing will be known tomorrow.

"If they are accurate, we will be ordering 200,000 units from S Korea," he said.

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