KOTA KINABALU:  Former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew has called on the Federal Government to pay greater attention to Sabah’s medical needs vis-a-vis the COVID-19 pandemic.

She wants the Health Ministry to give priority to Sabah in its intention to increase the capacity of labs nationwide that are running reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests to 100,000 tests per day.

RT-PCR testing is reportedly the most accurate method to diagnose COVID-19.

“Sabah’s current ‘backlog’ situation warrants bigger help in terms of increasing the processing capacity of existing labs as well as adding labs in the hospitals. 

 “Now in the third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are facing the phenomenon of a persistent three-digit daily increase in positive cases since the end of last year. I understand from a health expert that this negative trend may prevail for some time to come. On January 23rd (Saturday) alone, Sabah recorded almost 500 new COVID-19 cases. And swab test samples are reportedly piling  up in labs,” the Member of Parliament for Tawau said in a statement, here, Sunday.

Liew was commenting on media reports that as of January 18 this year, a total of 3,799 COVID-19 screening test samples have yet to be processed.

State Spokesman on COVID-19 matters, Datuk Masidi Manjun made the disclosure at his press conference on the same day.

Liew, who is also Api Api Assemblywoman, recalled that just two months ago, she had raised the concern at the sitting of the 16th State Legislative Assembly.

“At the time, as of November 15, 2020, some 3,755 COVID-19 swab test samples had yet to be processed. I had asked the Government what measures were being taken to address the situation.”

“In his reply, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the Government through the Health Ministry had taken the necessary steps to reduce the number of COVID-19 test samples in labs,” she said.

According to Hajiji, those samples were being processed at the KK Public Health Laboratory, Makmal UMS and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Laboratory with a capacity of handling 2,700 samples a day, and through outsourcing the services of private laboratories.

Noting the stark disparity in that Sabah has only six labs compared with 68 in the Peninsula, Liew emphasised the pressing need to clear the current backlog by increasing testing facilities in the state as soon as possible.

“The Health Ministry must expedite the necessary action to achieve this goal as delayed treatment for those who test positive, and held-up close contact tracing may result in raising the infectivity rate in the community. We don’t want this to happen,” she said.

Citing a Bernama report dated January 23rd, 2021, the Tawau MP expressed regret that in her constituency, more than 800 delayed test results were received since the past week as the samples had been sent to labs outside the district for processing.

Liew stressed that this setback shouldn’t arise if the Government is genuinely serious about curbing the spread of COVID-19 infections.

“It is crucial to resolve this problem immediately by setting up additional labs in the Tawau Hospital,” she said.

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