- Says net for identifying carriers of new coronavirus must be widened
- Warns as 80% show mild symptoms, they can infect others unless tested and isolated
- Cites WHO recommendation calling for more testing by countries
- Says SL must obtain rapid test kits being used in several countries now
- DGHS says authorities planning on sample testing of high-risk groups
The Government Medical ‘Officers Association (GMOA) yesterday called for aggressive testing for the new coronavirus among high risk groups in the population to slow down infection rates.
In its latest Situational Report of COVID-19, Sri Lanka – 31 March 2020 (12 noon), the GMOA said the net for identifying carriers of the new coronavirus should be widened so those testing positive could be isolated.
“Around 80% of patients who are infected with the new coronavirus show mild symptoms, hence there is the possibility that they will remain unidentified as carriers of the new coronavirus. Hence those who are in close contact with them too will go undetected unless they start showing symptoms. If tests are carried out, they can be identified early,” the GMOA said.
The association said several countries had started using a newly-approved rapid test which gives results in 15 minutes and that Sri Lanka too must immediately explore the possibility of obtaining these test kits for use in the country.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that all those suspected to be infected should be tested and those who are identified as positive carriers of the new coronavirus be mandatorily isolated so that the program to slow the spread of COVID-19 is successful,” the GMOA said.
It added that the GMOA would discuss measures to obtain the rapid test kits for Sri Lanka with Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe at the next meeting of the Technical Committee that has been set up to advice on the COVID-19 preventive program.
Meanwhile Dr. Jasinghe said yesterday that health authorities were planning to start a program to carry out sample testing among those in high risk groups.
“So far, we have confined testing to those who are in in quarantine centres, but we want to get an assessment of the spread of the virus in the community. For this we plan to start sample testing shortly,” Dr. Jasinghe said.
Currently tests are carried out at 24 Government hospitals but are limited to those who are suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus. No large-scale testing has been done even among those in high risk localities.
The WHO has recommended a combination of measures, including rapid diagnosis and immediate isolation of cases, rigorous tracking, and precautionary self-isolation of close contacts as methods to slow down the spread of the disease.
South Korea and Germany have used aggressive testing within the community to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and their preventive programs have been widely hailed.