Bintulu MP Denounces Antigen Rapid Tests, Bemoans Late Sarawak PPE Supply

Tiong King Sing says the federal government sent Sarawak personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners only right at the end of the Covid-19 outbreak at the coping stage.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing today urged health authorities to stop using antigen rapid test kits (RTK) for failing to detect Covid-19 in some who later tested positive in Sarawak.

The GPS lawmaker pointed out that many returning from overseas tested negative for the coronavirus with the antigen rapid tests upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, but later tested positive with the gold-standard PCR test in Kuching and Bintulu in Sarawak.

“This antigen RTK is not very suitable,” Tiong said while debating the King’s Speech in the Dewan Rakyat.

“So I hope, I urge the minister not to use the antigen rapid test kit. We are sending the wrong signal to everyone that everything’s okay. Luckily in Sarawak, people are still quarantined in hotels. If they had stayed at home or in the longhouse instead, go one round, everyone will dance.”

Sarawak authorities reported last Friday 10 new Covid-19 cases, comprising six in Kuching, two in Samarahan, and two in Bintulu, prompting Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Amar Douglas Uggah to declare a second coronavirus wave in the state.

The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has reported six cases of false-negative results from the antigen RTK used at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), where they initially tested negative for the coronavirus at the country’s main airport, but later tested positive on the PCR test upon landing in Sarawak. The six patients comprised one in Miri, two in Bintulu, two in Sibu, and one in Kuching.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement on July 16 that according to a technical re-evaluation by the Institute of Medical Research, the antigen RTK’s sensitivity level has increased from 84.4 per cent to 90 per cent, while specificity remains at 100 per cent.

Sensitivity measures how often a test correctly generates a positive result for people who have the condition that’s being tested for. A test that’s highly sensitive will flag almost everyone who has the disease and not generate many false-negative results.

Specificity measures a test’s ability to correctly generate a negative result for people who don’t have the condition that’s being tested for. A high-specificity test will correctly rule out almost everyone who doesn’t have the disease and won’t generate many false-positive results.

Tiong also today urged the National Security Council (NSC) to expedite procedures during a disaster, including taking over the functions of other agencies or ministries if necessary, claiming that personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners in Sarawak arrived very late.

“When we told the NSC about this, NSC was waiting for MOH (Ministry of Health). MOH has its own systems and processes on how to purchase all these things. Why can’t the NSC take jurisdiction directly from any agency or ministry and let the NSC straight away manage these things?” he questioned.

“The entire PPE supply came very late. PPE from the federal government to Sarawak only arrived right at the end when we’re already coping with it.”

Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman interjected Tiong’s speech and raised complaints from frontline health care workers at Muar Hospital about their difficulty in getting the RM600 monthly Covid-19 allowance.

“Even though I was informed that the SOP (standard operating procedure) was improved — they should be getting the extra monthly RM600 Covid allowance — but because of certain parties in that hospital, it was rather difficult to get the Covid allowance,” said Syed Saddiq.

“I was informed that this is not only happening in Muar Hospital, but also other hospitals.”

Tiong also urged Health Minister Dr Adham Baba today to transfer Bintulu’s health official, as he accused the official of refusing to cooperate in areas with Covid-19 infections with the excuse of insufficient staff.

“But during PH’s (Pakatan Harapan) time, when they want to arrest people for smoking, lorries of officers can come. During Covid, where do these officers go?” he said.

“This is why the people say that it looks like health positions are not taken very seriously and Covid-19 is not prioritised. So I ask the Minister, please quickly transfer the Bintulu health official.

“This is not from me as a Member of Parliament, but from the people of Bintulu, please act on this immediately and replace [the official] with a more proactive and efficient person to serve Bintulu.”

The GPS lawmaker called for PCR labs in Bintulu Hospital, but complained that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has yet to fill required positions, such as microbiologists, medical officers, science officers, medical laboratory technicians, and senior health care assistants (PPK), after he wrote a letter to MOH secretary-general Chen Chaw Min about the matter.

“None of them came,” Tiong said.

“We, the people of Bintulu, ask — please fill the positions of officers that should be filled. In Bintulu, there’s already been an increase of a few [Covid-19] cases, whether from outside or work.”

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