Speed up Covid-19 testing at labs in Sabah to overcome backlog, says Liew

KOTA KINABALU: The Health Ministry should take measures to speed up the processing of tests or set up more laboratories in Sabah to overcome a backlog in Covid-19 testing, says former deputy chief minister Datuk Christina Liew (pic).

She said that the current backlog in Sabah warrants an immediate increase in the processing capacity of existing labs as well as adding labs where needed.

Liew added that as of Jan 18, state officials had disclosed that there were some 3,700 samples yet to be tested.

The Tawau MP said the Health Ministry should give priority to Sabah in their plans to increase the capacity of labs nationwide to carry out a total of 100,000 RT-PCR tests per day.

“We are now in the third wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, we are facing the phenomenon of a persistent three-digit daily increase in positive cases since the end of last year.

“I understand from a health expert that this negative trend may prevail for some time to come. On Saturday (Jan 23), Sabah recorded almost 500 new Covid-19 cases.

“And swab test samples are reportedly piling up in labs,” said Liew, who is Sabah PKR chairman.

Liew said the matter was raised at the state assembly sitting on Nov 15, about steps to overcome backlogs which at that time was also hovering at around 3,755 samples.

She said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor had given an assurance that the state government, through the Health Ministry, was taking the necessary steps to reduce the number of Covid-19 test samples in labs.

Hajiji had told the assembly that samples were being processed at the KK Public Health Laboratory, Makmal UMS and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Laboratory with a capacity of handling 2,700 samples a day, and through outsourcing the services of private laboratories.

Liew said there was a stark disparity where Sabah has only six labs compared with 68 in the peninsula and added that there was a pressing need to clear the current backlog by increasing testing facilities in the state as soon as possible.

“The Health Ministry must expedite the necessary action to achieve this goal as delayed treatment for those who test positive, and held-up close contact tracing may result in raising the infectivity rate in the community.

“We don’t want this to happen,” she said, adding that in her Tawau constituency alone there were 800 samples yet to be tested over the past week as it has been sent to labs outside the district for processing.

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