ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s health authorities have denied allegations that district officials have been instructed to stop random PCR testing.
State Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle told EconomyNext today that no such directive has been made and laboratories are currently clearing a backlog of tests.
Public Health Officers (PHI) Union Chairman Upul Rohana told reporters yesterday that health officials in several districts have been informed to stop random PCR tests completely, with no explanation provided.
“We have no idea why,” he said.
Rohana said if it is a problem regarding the supply of reagents required for testing, it should be communicated clearly to low level officials as well as the public, rather than dropping tests and reassuring the public that cases are on the decline.
“We expect case numbers to go up in the coming days. In the prevailing circumstances, stopping random PCR testing would cause major problems,” the PHI union chief said.
Rohana further said his union questions the accuracy of Sri Lanka’s official daily COVID-19 case numbers, adding that having a backlog of PCR tests could mean a wider spread for the virus and a delay in detecting new cases.
“There is a huge delay in issuing PCR test results. We suspect the situation is much worse than what the authorities show. The results that are now being issued by the labs should have come out two to three
days ago,” he said.
“Deaths are increasing. We suspect this is not the actual data that are coming out,” he added.
Alleging a communication gap from top to bottom of the political and bureaucratic hierarchy of the state health sector, Rohana said the public too is suspicious of the official numbers.
State Minister Fernandopulle, however, insisted that the PHIs’ claim is totally false.
“This is fake news. No one has instructed to stop testing,” Fernandopulle told EconomyNext.
The State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease
Control said a backlog of tests exists since the previous 15,000-tests-a-day capacity was extended. Several machines had broken down and were in need of repair but are now back in operation, running tests that were in the backlog, she said.
Reagents too are being regularly supplied to labs, she added.
“There is no shortage in the supply, but it is volatile and we need to purchase more reagents with the usage being increased,” she said.
“But we are still able to provide reagents to the labs,” she added. (Colombo/May04/2021)