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Sri Lanka private hospitals to give Coronvirus testing capacity to government

TESTING GAPS: There have calls to test high-risk groups including quarantine workers, food distributors and cleaners.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s private hospitals have agreed to give their laboratory test capacity to the government to conduct Coronavirus tests, an industry association said.

Under a Public-Private Partnership sample from quarantined centres and identified clusters, suspected Coronavirus patients will be sent to private labs.

Labs of Lanka Hospitals, Asiri Surgical, Nawaloka Hospital and Durdans, have the capacity to conduct 100 Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR) tests for the government.

Lakith Peiris, President of the Association of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes (APHNH) said their members will support the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the National Centre for the Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak.

All PCR testing at any of these private hospital’s diagnostic labs will be confined to samples sent by the government only and will help ramp up the pace of testing.

“We, the private sector are happy to play a key role in easing the national burden of healthcare in this current pandemic,” Pieris said in a statement.

Sri Lanka has banned voluntary tests by asymptomatic private citizens in high-risk areas including those that may want to test before visiting an aged relative.

Observers have pointed out that tests were at first denied to close contacts of infected persons and those in quarantine but they were only carried out on patients inside apparently because there was a belief that PCR tests should be used only for diagnosis and not for screening.

However there is no other screening test available to detect infected persons quickly.

Any symptomatic person however could go to a designated hospital and get not only tests but full treatment at no cost.

There were also no random tests carried out among high-risk groups including those involved in contact tracing as far as is publicly known, leading to a large number of Navy personnel becoming infected undetected.

The Navy cluster was discovered only when one asymptomatic person turned up in a hospital.

There have been calls to widen testing of high-risk persons including those in healthcare, contact tracing/quarantine, cleaning staff, drivers, security staff and front office staff who meet many people.

Limiting tests to only symptomatic persons is a serious flaw, Advocata Insitute a Colombo-based think tank said.

“The current contact tracing strategy has a serious flaw in that it is too dependent on symptomatic cases and there is no way to detect an infected index case that is asymptomatic,” Advocata Institute said in a statement last week.

“Once curfew is lifted, the front office staff of many institutions including airports, quarantine workers, cleaning staff, people working in economic centres, and drivers may be exposed to higher risks.

“Even during curfew, there are several high-risk groups that may get infected. These are delivery personnel, postmen, drivers and cleaners of vehicles, as well as medical staff and cleaning staff at hospitals.”

In most countries, where progress is being made against the disease, voluntary tests are encouraged at state expenses and high-risk persons are tested randomly from time to time, observers had pointed out. (Colombo/May21/2020-sb)

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