Time to automate testing for Covid - 19 - Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara | Sunday Observer

Time to automate testing for Covid - 19 - Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara

15 November, 2020
Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara
Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara

The pressure is on the health authorities to take adequate measures to curb the Covid - 19 virus from spreading further, with virus related deaths reaching over 50 and the number of cases exceeding 15,000. Health Ministry Media Spokesperson Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara, in an interview with the Sunday Observer, said that it is high time that the country explores ways to automate testing to detect Covid-19 patients faster.


Q: What is the Covid -19 situation in the country? Do you think we have taken sufficient measures to control the spread of the virus?

A: Everything depends on what the Epidemiology Department or the Epidemiology Unit understands or studies and declares. According to them, still we are in stage three, not in the community spread stage.

The Mayor of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) said that they have taken random samples for PCR tests.

According to that, five percent of the population in the CMC area have contracted the virus.

They have extrapolated this to be about 30,000 people. When five percent of the random samples are positive, that means they do not know from where they have got the infection.

Q: We have received complaints from the people who are staying at Health Ministry-run treatment centres. Do we have a problem there?

A: The treatment centres are handled by the Deputy Director General, Medical Services.

According to him, all centres are well controlled. According to my knowledge, we have 30 treatment centres all over the country. Around 5,000 people are there in these centres.

Facilities-wise, there may be issues. But treatment wise, there is no treatment for Covid - 19 in the world. Toilet, water, ventilation issues may be a possibility when managing 5,000 patients.

Q: What if the number of cases increases?

A: It will be a huge problem. It is a big problem even for developed countries. What I am trying to tell people is not to take the Covid-19 virus into their bodies.

Still we do manual testing. We don’t have automated facilities. Around 10,000 tests are the maximum we can do. If we want to raise the testing capacity, we have to go for automation. The problem is none of the institutions, even in the private sector, has established fully automated facilities.

That is where one problem lies.The other issue is that if we get more patients with complications, we won’t have the requisite ICU beds. We have less than 1,000 ICU beds. The elderly population is vulnerable. In our country, about 18 percent of the population is the elderly. If we get many patients from the elderly population, we will need more facilities.

The best management strategy is not to get the infection.

Q: Has the death rate of Covid-19 increased?

A: The death rate has gone up. Within a couple of weeks, the number of people who died of Covid - 19 has increased. People say that, this time, the strain is deadlier than it used to be.

Q: What about herd immunity?

A: There is nothing called herd immunity for Covid-19. People hardly develop immunity for Covid - 19. That is why many developed countries have failed in controlling the virus.

Q: The WHO has agreed to give the vaccine, if one is found, to 20 percent of the population. What is the selection criterion for the vaccine?

A: Still there is no vaccine for Covid - 19.

There is no guideline to select the candidate yet. Health authorities will prepare guidelines for this.