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Sri Lanka to Coronavirus test high risk groups closing big gap, Covid-19 count 665

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is widening Coronavirus tests to several high risk groups who do not show symptoms while doctors treating patients have also been given the right to ask for a Covid-19 test, a top official said, in a sharp reduction in barriers to testing outside discovered clusters.

On Tuesday 16 persons were confirmed taking the total to 665 persons, the health ministry said.

Director of Sri Lanka’s Health Service Anil Jasinghe said out of 16 persons confirmed 09 were from the Navy, relating to the Welisara camp and elsewhere.

Another person was found from quarantine camp. Another person was also found from Dabare Mawatha, a person who was linked to the original patient from the area, who lived outside the area.

Relating to the Suduwella cluster in Ja-Ela, five persons were found from a quarantine centre from among persons who were in the centre for some time.

Asymptomatic Algorithm
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“We have prepared an algorithm to conduct PCR tests around Sri Lanka,” Jasinghe told Sri Lanka’s privately owned Derana Television on Friday.

“We had improved this. For example in Colombo, ground level samples are taken for testing. It can be other institutions. If we think three wheeler drivers, or in some built up areas we can take samples and test.

“We have not found patients in a large scale from this. We found only a few according to the tests we have done.

“Yesterday we did 1397 we did in the 24 hours to 1700h.”

Under the current algorithm, a portion of the daily test volume is allocated to designated hospitals where Coronavirus patients are treated, a portion to patients admitted with fever to other, a portion to patients who have respiratory conditions which are not directly suspected to be Coronavirus.

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There have been calls to sample test high risk groups to net in asymptomatic persons and also lift a ban on voluntary asymptomatic tests.

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All first contacts are now being tests and if necessary second contacts, he said. Samples of health service staff are also being tested.

“If a doctor who is treating a patient thinks that the patient could have the disease and insistes on a test on a test, test will be performed,” Jasinghe said.

Test Denial

Medical sources said a surgeon who wanted to test a person who was from a high risk area was denied a test by his superior and the virologist leading to an altercation as he insisted on the test.

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The doctor was forced to perform the procedure before the results came with only half the staff wearing personal protective equipment, and the test had come back as positive the following day.

The doctor told colleagues that there was poor knowledge of ‘risk assessment’ among his superiors.

Sri Lanka had earlier denied PCR tests to a wide range of asymptomatic persons based on a wide variety of reasons including that there should be an ‘indication’ to test.

At first PCR tests were denied to everyone except those already in hospital based on the reasoning that PCR tests was a ‘diagnostic’ test and not a ‘screening’ test.

Sri Lanka saw a rapid rise in Coronavirus cases as a Navy camp was infected and they were allowed to go on leave despite an ban on inter-district travel for ordinary citizens.

In some cases drivers of trucks transporting essential goods were asked by staff manning security check points to take the forces personnel home, television reports said.

Leave of tri-forces personnel were then cancelled and they were recalled to base.

Leave of police had also been cancelled until May 15.

Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana said it was to stop them from inter-district travel. Reports said random tests may also be carried out on police officers on road duty who meet many people.

The latest changes to the testing framework reduces the chance for the virus to spread and is in line with calls made by concerned observers who saw what is happening in countries which are successfully fighting Coronavirus.

Colombo-based Advocata Institute said limiting tests to those in clusters discovered from symptomatic persons was a serious flaw and asked for testing of high risk groups who may be asymptomatic.

The think tank has also asked for a current ban on private voluntary tests to be lifted so that businesses could test their front office staff, long distance drivers, cleaning staff or other high risk persons at their own expense.

South Korea encourages voluntary tests at state expenses, while many countries have allowed voluntary tests. (Colombo/May01/2020)

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