KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Bakri MP Yeo Bee Yin has urged the government to utilise private testing laboratories as a means to ramp up Covid-19 testing and screening.
In a statement today, Yeo stated that with Covid-19 cases still at worrying levels, there is a critical need for the government to ramp up mass testing among the general population by utilising the private sector as a way to not only complement but also boost the efficacy of Covid-19 measures done by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
“In Malaysia, we are now recording about 5,000 to 6,000 a day of positive cases with more than three-quarter sporadic cases, it is even more important for us to embark on mass-testing. Having said that, I do not think the government machinery would be able to cope. From what I observed of the Health Department in Bakri and Muar district, they are near to burnt out as the ICU beds are full with Covid patients and vaccination programmes running in full steam.
“The government must now look to the private sector, since there’s 70 per cent under-utilised capacity for testing in private labs now, why not engage them to run the mass-testing program?
Yeo’s statement had cited Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s recent remarks that private laboratories are now only running at 30 per cent of capacity for Covid-19 testing.
Yeo, who is a former minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change, also pointed to Malaysia’s recent spike in Covid-19 cases where MoH has identified that some 69 per cent of cases reported this year are sporadic.
“This is a time bomb that needs to be solved. We should learn from others. In October 2020, when a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating Covid-19 patients were discovered in Qing Dao, China, the city government embarked on mass-testing for nine million people in five days.
“Similarly, in May 2021, when Victoria state, Australia, went into a state-wide lockdown, they also employed mass-testing as one of the steps to curb virus spreading,” she said.
Yeo stated that with the government spending some RM600 billion to fight the pandemic, a small fraction of the funds should be used to increase testing capacity.
“We do have the resources to do it. The government allocated RM600 billion to fight Covid. Test-trace-isolate-treat should be up in the priority list (together with vaccination) to contain virus by breaking the infection chain.
“To put into perspective, every day of MCO 3.0, RM1 billion lost to the economy. With RM1 billion, we can give free testing to more than 20 million people!
“Of course, we should also allocate funds to be prepared for the surge of positive cases that come with more testing, by beefing up tracing capacity and facilities in the quarantine centres, preparing enough home quarantine kits with oximeter, self-testing kit, movement tracking-device etc.
“All in all, the budget needed for the successful test-trace-isolate-treat initiative will just be a fraction of the RM600 billion Covid-19 budget,’’ she said.