KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — Malaysia is conducting over 9,000 coronavirus tests a day, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today, amid questions over the country’s testing numbers.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said health authorities ran 9,214 tests today, 9,253 tests yesterday, and 10,463 tests last Sunday.
“Our maximum capacity is 11,500 [tests daily]. Now we have 43 labs, so we hope the labs can increase the capacity to do the testing. More important is our target to reach about 16,500 [daily],” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference.
The 9,000 to 10,000 tests run each day, he said, comprised both new Covid-19 patients tested for diagnosis and repeated tests on existing cases.
“We’re crunching the data now,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
He said RT-PCR tests to detect coronavirus take at least six hours, and with volume, the processing time goes beyond 24 hours, sometimes more than 48 hours. That also excludes the time needed to transport samples to the lab.
An accurate antigen rapid test kit used at the point of care, which can deliver reports within an hour, would be able to cut the number of pending test results that numbered at about 8,000 as of yesterday, according to the DG.
“We have limited resources in terms of testing. We can’t test 30 million population, but we know certain high-risk groups, that’s why we’re targeting high-risk groups,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
Paediatrician Dr Amar-Singh HSS wrote today that except for one outstanding day on March 27, Malaysia’s coronavirus testing availability was only between 1,500 and 3,500 tests a day, as he claimed that daily official reports on positive tests were a poor indicator of the epidemic in Malaysia.
University Malaya epidemiologist Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud also told CodeBlue recently that it was difficult to model the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia without good data, like information on dates of when Covid-19 tests are run and dates of their returning results.
MOH is currently doing “active case detection” by screening all residents staying in areas under total lockdowns, or the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO), for Covid-19. Residences at four areas have been put under the EMCO — Masjid India flats in the capital city; a condominium on Jalan Munshi Abdullah in Kuala Lumpur; villages in Hulu Langat, Selangor; and villages in Simpang Renggam, Kluang, Johor.
Dr Noor Hisham said today it would take MOH about 10 days to screen residents at the Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion on Jalan Masjid India in Kuala Lumpur and decontaminate those areas, after an EMCO was imposed today on those flats containing some 6,000 residents.
The nationwide MCO is scheduled to end in just about a week on April 14.
“We hope the next five days, if we can come together as one, we stay home and do our part,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham, however, added that Malaysia hoped the Singaporean government would keep Malaysian employees in Singapore for another two weeks.
“We’re discussing with our Singaporean counterparts on whether employers can keep them in Singapore for two weeks. Those who want to return will be screened, then we’ll take subsequent action.”