Sabah needs urgent, universal testing

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by BERNAMA

UNIVERSAL testing is needed to manage the Covid-19 cases in Sabah rather than targeted testing, health experts said.

Additionally, the people in Sabah also require financial aid and moral support, on top of having improved healthcare facilities.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See believes targeted testing needs to be changed to universal testing instead.

“By testing everyone, this would allow the public healthcare workers to stop the transmission even before the symptoms appear. Universal testing allows us to quickly detect pre-symptomatic cases and to isolate them before the virus spreads.

“The situation in Sabah shows that we are always one step behind the virus, which is why the number of cases keeps on increasing,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Instead of applying the labbased testing known as the Reverse Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), the government should also consider point of care testing using antigen rapid test kit (RTK-Ag) as the result would be ready in 30 minutes, rather than the RT-PCR test which can take between five and seven days.

In the past, the accuracy of the RTK-Ag test was called into question, however, Dr See said given the current situation, the RT-PCR also poses another setbacks in relations to the logistics in the state.

“RT-PCR tests are slow, expensive and can only be done in hospitals and labs by specialists, whereas people might stay three hours away from the nearest hospital, so the accessibility is not enough.

“The Health Ministry must ramp up the RTK-Ag test kit fast, so that universal testing can be done to detect cases rapidly.”

Dr See said in the war against Covid-19, now is the time for everyone to come together and help as people on the field are facing all kinds of challenges, such as shortage of medical resources and supplies.

“If Sabah falls, no doubt Peninsular Malaysia will be affected, so we should not allow that to happen.

“I appeal to everyone from the public and private sectors to help them with the resources, so that they can finish the job. If we are not careful, the healthcare workers who are on the field, they are fatigued and a lot of them could get infected,” he urged.

MCA Sabah state liaison committee chairman Lu Yen Tung urged Putrajaya to immediately channel two types of special allocations to assist Sabah in dealing with the pandemic.

“The first special provision is to contain the spread of the pandemic by increasing and improving medical facilities, treatment equipment and screening; adding the number of treatment centres, quarantine, screening and pandemic laboratories; expanding the number of medical and healthcare staff, research laboratories and others.

“The second special provision is to preserve the wellbeing of the people. This should be targeted at the most affected industries or sectors, as well as the B40 (bottom 40%) group that is most affected by the economic downturn,” he said in a statement.

Lu said the special allocation should also enable the Sabah state government to formulate assistance schemes to help the worst affected industries such as the tourism industry.

Meanwhile, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur respiratory physician Dr Helmy Haja Mydin said close attention must be given to the situation in both Sabah and Selangor.

He said the cases in other states are relatively well-confined and as the numbers in these two states grow, there will be an increasing need for testing, isolation and treatment.

“The main strain will be on economic activities, as well as healthcare facilities. As the Health DG mentioned, numbers are likely to remain high especially if SOPs (standard operating procedures) are not adhered to.

“Whilst I agree that additional funding will be helpful, it is also very important to identify where and how such funding will be utilised,” he told TMR.