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As close contacts drop, so does PCR testing: health ministry official

EPIDEMIOLOGICAL DETECTIVES: A positive PCR test can confirm the presence of current infection (though a negative one does not not eliminate it) and the information can used to isolate contacts and stop future infections. An antigen test helps epidemiologists follow a trail backwards by checking people who have recovered.

ECONOMYNEXT – A drop in the number of close contacts of Sri Lanka’s confirmed daily COVID-19 cases is the reason for a significant reduction in daily PCR testing, an official said.

Denying allegations that PCR testing has seen an alarming drop, a health ministry official claimed that the “aggressive” containment of the current clusters and ongoing contact-tracing efforts has minimised transmission have contributed to a drop in close contacts which has in turn led to the reduction in testing. A majority of PCR tests that have been done so far in the island were of close contacts of confirmed cases, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Director of the Institute for Health Policy Dr Ravindra Rannan-Eliya tweeted today that testing in the western province has collapsed, partly because health ministry staff are otherwise occupied with Sri Lanka’s ongoing vaccination drive – a sign of widespread and continuing local transmission.


The health ministry official, however, claimed that the vaccination programme has no effect on PCR testing, adding that enough staff and technicians are present at hospitals to conduct the tests and run the PCR machines.

“Other than ongoing testing of close contacts, the ministry is continuing random PCR testing island-wide. This has not stopped,” the official said, though it is unclear where such testing is happening.

Sri Lanka recorded 314 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period that ended at 6am today, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 90,514.

According to the national task force for the prevention of COVID-19, 40 of the 314 cases are returnees from abroad. Of the 274 locally identified patients, 52 are from Trincomalee, 30 from Kalutara, 29 from Gampaha and 28 from Colombo.

In an earlier interview given to EconomyNext, Chief Epidemiologist Dr Sudath Samaraweera said high levels of community transmission in certain countries was the primary reason for increased cases among repatriates to Sri Lanka.

With 5,983 PCR tests over the past 24 hours, Sri Lanka has so for conducted 2.3 million tests, official records show. (Colombo/Mar23/2021)





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