A technician from China is expected to arrive this morning to repair a high capacity PCR machine that broke down a few days ago, National Operation Centre for the Prevention of the COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva said yesterday.
As a result of the breakdown, a delay of two to three days in PCR test results is currently occurring in the country and Silva explained that the stagnation in reports was preventing authorities from making real-time decisions that are required to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Silva explained that, for instance, the decision taken earlier this week to enforce quarantine curfew on the Moratuwa, Panadura, and Homagama Police jurisdictions was based on results of PCR sampling carried out a few days prior to the decision being made.
“The machines have been functioning throughout the day for the past 20 days and this continuous usage led to this situation,” he said. The NOCPCO Head added that the PCR machine had not been functioning for a few days and that local technicians were unsuccessful in their attempts to repair the high capacity machine.
“There was a need to bring down an individual from China to repair the machine on a diplomatic level.
rrangements will most likely be made to bring down the technician [today] and he can carry out repairs while following a quarantine procedure,” Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva added.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Inspectors’ (PHI) Union yesterday clarified that the Union had not issued a statement saying there was a delay of two to three weeks in issuing PCR results, as some media reports claimed.
PHI Union President Upul Rohana, however, said there has been a delay of two to three days since 8 October, due to dysfunctional machines. “While the issue was being rectified, there was a further delay from 23 October where results could no longer be issued in a day,” he said, explaining that further delays were caused by the high volume of PCR tests being carried out in the country.
According to the Health Promotion Bureau, 480,838 PCR tests have been carried out in the island to date, including 11,552 tests on Wednesday. This is the highest number of tests carried out in a day, with 9,619 tests carried out on 26 October and 9,513 tests carried out on 17 October.
Upul Rohana added that the Union had also informed the authorities of a shortage of PHIs and the need to train at least two more groups. While one group is currently being trained, Upul Rohana said the country has 1,817 PHIs, of which 1,400 are senior PHIs.
Due to this shortage, they were facing certain difficulties in tracing patients, he added.