ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s public health inspectors, a permanent cadre of tropical disease fighters spread around country are urging authorities to speed up Coronavirus test results as delays are worsening the spread of Covid-19.
PHIs say the backlog should be cleared perhaps with a joint operation with private sector labs and retired officer should also be brought back to service to help contain the current outbreak with only 2,762 PHIs on duty entrusted with the task of identifying and isolating infected persons.
“There is an issue in PCR tests. Because of the traffic in labs, some of the results that are issued are two, three days old,” Secretary of the Public Health Inspectors Union, Mahendra Balasooriya said.
“In some MOH areas it has been delayed for 6 days sometimes. In a situation like this, it is very dangerous.”
Without the test results, PHIs cannot isolate second level contacts under Sri Lanka’s Coronavirus testing regime.
Balasooriya said the potential threat of spreading the virus from the second level close contacts is high with the delay of the results of first contacts.
“Due to the delay their test result, their second level contacts will still be roaming in the community, going to the office or gatherings spreading the virus if they have,” Balasooriya said.
In countries which are most successful at containing the virus such as Vietnam all close contacts (F1) of patient zero (F0) are quarantined institutionally and F2 (second level) are also home quarantined and F3 identified and warned.
As soon a test turns positive a close or F1 contact becomes patient zero (F0). His contacts who were earlier F2 now become F1 and required to be quarantined.
Sri Lanka now is mostly resorting to home quarantining of contacts as the country is running out of hospital space for more serious patients.
Health Minister of Pavithra Wanniarachchi told the parliament the PCR tests per day is around 20,000 and Sri Lanka is doing PCR tests in 35 laboratories.
“Even though the Minister said the number of PCR tests will be increased due to not having enough capacity in labs there will be backlog tests” Balasooriya said.
“Our officers in several areas have been instructed by high level officers in the Ministry to reduce the number of tests done in those districts, which is a big issue in a situation like this”
“This should not be politicized but we need to look for the solutions”
“The positivity rate has been increased in the country and some patients are staying at home for two three days until they sent to a treatment centre”
Balasooriya suggested that initiate a joint operation with the private sector labs to clear the backlog tests and also bring back retired health inspectors to beef up manpower.
“Therefore we ask the government initiate joint operation with the private sector to take their labs and speed up the process as a solution for the delay,” Balasooriya said.
Balsooriya said currently there were 2762 PHI on duty and bringing back retired officers will speed up isolation work.
On May 06 Sri Lanka confirmed a total of 1,895 cases with 26,360 tests being done. People in hospitals and treatment centres rose to 17,794 by the end of the day from 15,901.
Total confirmed has been hovering around 1900 for several days with around 90 pockets of infections under lockdown, though it is not yet clear whether numbers have started to flatten or whether faster test releases would push it up.
Sri Lanka had earlier contained an outbreak which peaked at around 800 to 900 with contact tracing and mostly home quarantine. (Colombo/May06/2021)