6 May 2020
The Ministry of Health will be receiving another 50,000 antigen rapid test kits this weekend in addition to the 50,000 already procured on May 2.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in addition to this, the ministry will also receive 100,000 antigen rapid test kits next week.
These test kits will be allocated to different states such as 10,000 each to Sabah and Sarawak, 15,000 to Johor while 15,000 will also be allocated for use at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and klia2.
“Most importantly, we now have options. With the RT-PCR test, our testing capacity is now 20,635 and in addition to that we can use the antigen rapid test kit.”
The gold standard in testing for Covid-19 as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines is still the RT-PCR test.
At present, with 44 labs, the Health Ministry has a testing capacity of 20,635 using the RT-PCR. Yesterday, a total of 15,113 samples were tested.
Besides enhancing its lab capacity and effectiveness, the ministry is also hoping to produce test results within 24 hours.
Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry is also in the process of updating its data on samples tested. Although the number of positive cases recorded is accurate, negative cases are not being reported, particularly those tested in private facilities.
“We realise the positive cases are accurate but the negative cases which have been screened but not reported are still pending, especially from private labs. They only report the positive cases but not the negative ones. We want to ensure the negative cases are also reported,” he said.
As for the antibody test kit, it is not recommended for diagnosis of Covid-19, said Dr Noor Hisham.
While a person who has been exposed to Covid-19 does show an antibody response, it’s still not clear whether this will protect him from a second infection.
Dr Noor Hisham said this issue is being discussed globally, but so far information indicates it’s not enough to protect the patient.
Those who have been infected do show an antibody response, but so far the antibody does not protect the patient even though he has recovered.
“If the antibody does not protect, then we cannot talk about herd immunity. Herd immunity depends on an antibody which the patient has acquired and which offers him protection.”
Dr Noor Hisham said even if a person has the antibody, we still do not know whether at that point of time, he still has the virus in him.
“Even if you have the antibody, you still have to do the RT-PCR test to check whether the virus is still in you. This is why we don’t want people to just rely on the antibody test kit.”
People may assume they are free of the disease after the antibody test and start to mix around freely with others and end up spreading the disease, he explained.