Health Ministry targets at-risk groups for Covid-19 mass testing

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah giving a press conference on Covid-19 in MOH , Putrajaya. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah giving a press conference on Covid-19 in MOH , Putrajaya. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, April 6 — The Health Ministry’s latest strategy in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is to look at mass testing of groups at high risk of infection.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said focusing on these groups would be a sound decision to maximise resources.

“With the limited resources the ministry has, it would be best to target such high-risk groups like the Sri Petaling tabligh members or the Kuching church, nationwide,” he said during the daily Health Ministry press conference.

Similarly Dr Noor Hisham said the number of people who can be tested on a daily basis, currently at a capacity of 11,500, can be further increased with rapid testing kits.

“We are still waiting for the laboratories to increase their capacities, but more importantly we are exploring new methods, such as one in which samples can be directly tested on site instead of having to be sent to the labs.

“For now we will attempt to reach the target of 16,500 tests daily, but with the rapid testing kits which are hopefully reliable and accurate, we would be able to increase the number of tests to over 20,000,” he said.

The director-general said it would also be ideal to find a test with a short turnaround time, able to determine a person’s positive or negative status within 30 minutes to an hour.

“We also want to increase laboratory capacity in terms of the number of samples, so instead of doing a single sample we can then have a pool of five or so samples. Equally important and crucial is to enhance our labs’ services.

“We started off with 23 labs, but now we have 43 across both public and private sectors. Five more are being set up, and we are in the procurement process so hopefully by next week we can have new laboratories,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

He said the past few days has been one of trial and error for the laboratories, and that the ministry is also looking to start laboratories on university campuses.

“It was actually just teething problems. For example, for 14 laboratories we did only about 380 test samples, a warm-up before they can actually increase capacity to maybe 200 daily.

“In that scenario we would probably be looking at 2,800 tests available, so I think in terms of capacity we will need to share across public and private sectors, and also see to it that universities are working alongside the ministry as one,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

As of today 3,793 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the country, with over 1,241 cases recovered and discharged from hospitals today alone.

The Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre’s statistics revealed 131 new cases were reported today, with one death in Terengganu, a 67-year old man with a history of diabetes and high-blood pressure.

Globally 1,284,754 Covid-19 cases have been reported, with 271,731 recoveries and 70,320 deaths reported.

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