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Government has been successful in increasing number of PCR tests: Pavithra

Pavithra Wanniarachchi

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi has observed that the government has been successful in increasing the number of PCR tests conducted on a daily basis from around 300 in March to 11,000 at present. The Rapid Antigen tests have also been added to the system for instant identification of COVID-19 patients. So far, around 4,000 tests have been conducted.

She made this observation in the House responding to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under Standing Order 27/2. She said:

“ Currently, there are 34 PCR machines, 1,020 ventilators, and 704 ICU beds being used at government hospitals. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, 25 PCR machines, 220 mobile ventilators, and 61 ICU beds were added on to the existing facilities at those hospitals.

Currently, the government has established 25 PCR testing centres and equipped them with 34 PCR machines. These machines are sufficient to manage the number of patients at present. However, the government is in the process of increasing these numbers and establishing new PCR testing facilities in order to meet future requirements, with the assistance of the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

We are also in the process of identifying more Intensive Care Units and developing them. Of the 25 PCR machines added to hospitals, 11 were obtained with funds from the Asian Development Bank. In addition, 14 more PCR machines were added with local and international donations. After the emergence of the pandemic in the country, 220 ventilators and 61 ICU beds were added to the government hospital network. We have received 200 mobile ventilators and 20 ICU beds.

Currently, around 11,000 PCR tests are conducted on a daily basis at government hospitals. These PCR-testing processes take around six hours. In order to make the testing mechanism more efficient, the government is looking for new technologies that use minimal manpower. Accordingly, we have set up 16 automated extractors with robotic arms at government hospital PCR labs.In addition, two fully-automated machines have also been installed at the Mulleriyawa Infectious Disease Hospital and the Katunayake Airport.

The government has been successful in increasing the number of PCR tests conducted on a daily basis from around 300 in March to 11,000 at present. The Rapid Antigen tests have also been added to the system for instant identification of COVID-19 patients. So far, around 4,000 tests have been conducted.

The Health Ministry has begun implementing a vaccination programme for the virus as well. The minister said that Sri Lanka has already entered the COVAX programme and GAVI vaccine alliance that are working for a vaccine for COVID-19 with technical assistance from the World Health Organization. When obtaining the vaccine, we should give attention to the fact that vaccine trials are in the third clinical stage, and nobody knows when approval will be given to produce them.”

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