Backlog of PCR test results hampering the fight against Covid – officials

ON GUARD – Troops man roadblock at the entrance to Colombo before 3-day curfew is imposed

ECONOMYNEXT – A massive backlog in PCR testing has left people in quarantine centres stuck there longer than the mandatory 14-day period and senior officials unable to decide whether or not to extend curfews and lockdowns, multiple sources told EconomyNext today.

Officials told EconomyNext on the condition of anonymity that the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) had had a “discussion” with the Health Department and said that without the information of the correct number of patients and the spread of the disease they were unable to take administrative decisions.

The source said, “we don’t know which areas we need to lockdown and where we can lift the curfews.”

Currently, according to these sources head of the NOCPCO Army Commander Lt Gen Shavendra Silva has urged the Health authorities to find a solution to the backlog.

Ravi Kumudesh, head of the Sri Lanka Association of Government Medical Laboratory Technologists (SLAGMLT) blamed Health Ministry officials for the situation, claiming that “they had made no plans for a possible second wave of Covid infections.”

Kumudesh told EconomyNext that when representations had been made to senior officials at the Health Ministry by his Association he had been told that “Covid is over.”

Other officials also confirmed that there had been an oversight and “capacity building for PCR tests had not been carried out.”

Kumudesh also claimed that a new “so-called state of the art laboratory built at Mulleriyawa” does not have the necessary facilities and is now malfunctioning.

The lab, he said had cost LKR250mn and now needs a technician to be flown in from China to fix.

This has further reduced the capacity of the country to do PCR testing he said.

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Meanwhile a group of returnees from the United Kingdom housed at the Jetwing Blue Goldi Sands hotel in Negombo who should have finished their quarantine period today have been asked to get PCR tests done in private institutions.

One of the persons in quarantine Dr Tush Wickremanayake told EconomyNext that their samples had been taken for the second PCR test on October 26.

“But the test results have not reached the Medical Research Institute yet,” she said. Wickremanayake added that she would have to fork out the expenses for the PCR test as well as additional days spent at the hotel because of the situation. (Colombo, October 30, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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