Saturday, May 15, 2021

Where is the 150,000 testing capacity targeted by the government in January?

Media Statement by MP for Bakri, Yeo Bee Yin on Saturday 15 May 2021 in Bakri, Johor. (scroll down for BM and Mandarin)

Where is the 150,000 testing capacity targeted by the government in January?

Malaysians started the third movement control order (MCO 3.0) recently and many families are struggling to get by in terms of finance, jobs, education, business, physical and mental health etc. Beside the confusing standard operating procedures (SOPs) that draw a lot of angers and criticisms, the important question now is, what is the government doing differently this time around compared to MCO 1.0 and MCO 2.0?
The government cannot expect rakyat to be disciplined and suffer the financial impact of MCO while they themselves are not bucking up. One of the most important but straight forward actions to contain virus spreading is through test and isolate with a simple logic that the faster we find out Covid-19 positive people in the community and isolate them, the less likely for them to spread the virus in the community.
There have been calls from many groups, including the opposition lawmakers, to ramp up testing capacity of the country. In fact, back in January, the government itself said it targeted to increase RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing capacity of the country from about 70,000 to 100,000 with the aim to reach 150,000 testing capacity [1].
Four months have now passed, our testing figures still revolve around 70,000 per day, where is the promised 150,000? Covid-19 virus waits for no one, 4 months is a long time in battling once-in-a-century global pandemic!
In addition, the government makes no attempt to run other large-scale screening initiatives to identify positive cases in the community. It completely ignored the calls from many groups to include rapid antigen testing (RTK-Ag) in nationwide screening processes. While RTK-Ag may be less accurate, but it makes up for speed and capacity (as it is widely available and not restricted by lab capacity). It surely has a place to play as a stopgap measure as we struggle in increasing RT-PCR capacity.
Indeed, tackling Covid-19 crisis is not an easy one, but if after a year, the government can’t even get basic things like test and isolate right, what hope do Malaysians have? How many more MCO can we afford to bring the country out of Covid-19 crisis? The government is insane if their plan is to do the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.