PETALING JAYA,Jan 22: A former federal minister and a paediatrician have hit out at the health ministry’s plan to boost Covid-19 testing capacity to about 100,000 a day, saying it is insufficient.

In a tweet, former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said with the country reporting “4,000 Covid-19 cases daily”, Malaysia needs to ramp up testing.

And going by the World Health Organization’s standards, he said, at least 200,000 tests need to be carried out daily.

“Can you do a PCR for that?” he tweeted, referring to the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests.

“You can’t, no way.”

Dzulkelfy, who is also the Selangor Covid-19 task force chairman, said Malaysia needs Covid-19 antigen rapid test kits (RTK-Ag) which are “fast and cheap”.

To arrest the third wave of infections, which WHO predicted will see more than 5,000 cases daily by the end of next month, there is a need to outpace the rate at which the virus spreads, he said.

This can be done by ramping up tests by volume and speed with the RTK-Ag.

Meanwhile, paediatrician Dr Amar-Singh HSS said the country was now only playing “catch up”.

“More importantly, our turnaround time for PCR is still too slow,” he said in a tweet.

He said such tests need three to five days to get a result, which limits its value. “We need 100,000s of rapid Antigen tests on the ground and keep PCR for admission use,” he said, adding that the test results for the Antigen test could be obtained in an hour.

Yesterday, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry hopes to boost its Covid-19 testing capacity to about 100,000 a day and eventually to 150,000 a day.

He said 68 labs were currently processing RT-PCR tests daily.

“The capacity of certain labs can still be increased. With all 68 labs, I think the testing capacity can increase to about 100,000. But we’re also looking at new labs,” he said at a press conference.

In a tweet today, Noor Hisham said the RTK-Ag is only recommended when the “health system is overburdened” or when the turnaround time for the RT-PCR is more than 48 or 72 hours or if such tests are not available.

“Test kits sensitivity must be more than 80% and specifically more than 97%,” he said.


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