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Monday May 17th, 2021

Sri Lanka: PCR testing capacity at International Airport drops drastically

Ukrainian Tourists arriving in Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT- The capacity of the laboratory to test arriving passengers at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for Covid 19 has dropped drastically from 3,000 per day to 600, EconomyNext reliably learns.

This has been caused by a lack of automated extraction reagent kits senior officials have said according to documents made available to EN.

The BIA remains the main port of entry in Sri Lanka and the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory established at the airport to diagnose the COVID-19 affected passengers arriving in Sri Lanka contributes to a third of all the PCR tests being carried out in the country.

A reduction in testing capacity will hit the government’s plan to re-open the country’s main international airport in a week from now.

Once opened the BIA is expected to see more than several thousand incoming passengers per day.

Sri Lanka has welcomed charter flights from Ukraine which have brought in several thousand tourists from the impoverished European country in the past few weeks.

The government has also increased the number of flight repatriating migrant workers from West Asia and Europe over the past ten days.

A letter dated yesterday written by the Deputy Director of the Medical Research Institute (MRI) Dr Jayaruwan Bandara who is overseeing the laboratory in BIA, to the Director of the Medical Research Institute says that the daily COVID-19 testing capacity of the laboratory in BIA will drop to 600 tests per day within the next couple of days as extraction reagent stock are almost over.

Moreover, the President of the Association of Government Medical Laboratory Technologists Ravi Kumudesh told reporters yesterday that it has been a month since the laboratory in BIA, which is the most efficient and the lab which does the highest number of COVID tests per day in Sri Lanka had asked for extraction reagent kits.

“As the stocks were not provided with the lab which did 3000 tests daily has reduced its capacity to 600 tests per day,” Kumudesh told a Press conference.

Further, he said that Bandara who is responsible for the laboratory has written to MRI director about this.

Kumudesh claims that the issue had become a “private dispute between the directors without providing any support to the lab in the BIA.”

Last week, the laboratory at BIA completed 100,000 PCR tests within five months since its inception on July 9 2020.

The laboratory has conducted 85,000 PCR tests for the community while more than 20,000 passengers arriving at BIA have been tested.

A fully equipped new state of the art Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, BIA issues a globally -recognized PCR certificate, and all passengers arriving at BIA are PCR tested.


Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe and edited by Arjuna Ranawana

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