KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) today explained why Malaysia had 8,000 pending coronavirus test results, even as experts said this backlog complicated real-time reporting.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it sometimes took more than 48 hours to produce a test result, not 24 hours. Also, the result of tests done in the morning may only be reported the next day because noon is the cut-off time for reporting.
“What we should do is find a test that has short turnaround time, probably can diagnose within 30 minutes or one hour, that’s number one,” he told a press conference.
“Second, in terms of transport, point of care testing, rather than sending the specimen, because it’ll take time to send the specimen to the lab. Three, can increase capacity of our lab,” he added, expressing hope that with 14 new university labs, the testing workload could be shared and pending cases would be cleared up soon.
Currently, 43 laboratories in the public and private sectors can run Covid-19 tests, with five more laboratories coming in — most probably in Tawau, Sandakan, and Miri, plus a few university labs.
The Health DG said the 14 new university labs had some teething problems the past few days, when they only did about 380 test samples.
“That’s the beginning for them to warm up before they can actually increase capacity to maybe 200 a day. If 14 labs, 200 a day, then probably we’re looking at 2,800 tests available, so I think capacity-wise, we need to share, public and private, and also university, working together as one.”
Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud told CodeBlue in an interview that it was difficult to model the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia without good data, even as the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) is scheduled to end in just about a week on April 14.
He said the backlog of some 8,000 pending test results must be cleared first, besides urging MOH to provide information on the dates of when Covid-19 tests are run and dates of when these test results come back, so that health authorities can specify that a particular number of people were infected on a certain date.