Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 warns of some Coronavirus testing malpractices amongst some private hospitals

Presidential task force’s co-chairperson Dr. John Phuka

* Ministry of Health increases COVID-19 testing sites across the country

By Duncan Mlanjira

The presidential task force on COVID-19 sends out an alert to the general public that they have received reports that some private hospitals and pharmacies are providing/selling rapid antibody tests for COVID-19 as a way of diagnosing COVID-19 disease.

In today’s update, the task force’s co-chairperson Dr. John Phuka said the Ministry of Health has thus warned suppliers and service providers not to use rapid antibody tests as a diagnostic tool for COVID-19.

Coronavirus alert

He said there are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19 which are; a viral test which tells if one has a current infection and an antibody test which might tell a person had a past infection.

“Rapid antibody tests are used to detect past infection of the virus as opposed to molecular tests (PCR) technologies that detect genetic material of coronavirus during the active phase of the infection.

“A viral test checks specimens from your nose or your mouth (saliva) to find out if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Two types of viral tests can be used which are the PCR and antigen test. It is recommended that the antigen test is used for those with COVID-19 symptoms.”

Coronavirus alert

He disclosed that currently the country has 15 laboratories conducting PCR testing and 149 sites conducting antigen testing across the country.

In the past 24 hours, 3,142 COVID-19 tests were conducted, 2,259 of the new tests were through SARS-COV-2 Antigen Rapid Diagnostic test while the rest were through RT-PCR translating to a positivity rate of 30.4%.

Cumulatively, 128,509 tests, have been conducted in the country so far.

Dr. Phuka said they have also observed a rise in complaints on different platforms including the social media about the quality of services being provided in our hospitals related to COVID- 19 that include testing, treatment, handling of dead bodies and others.

Coronavirus alert

“I would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that there is system for lodging complaints instituted by Ministry of Health in collaboration with Office of the Ombudsman.

“Each Public and CHAM health facility has a hospital Ombudsman whose responsibility is to handle complaints raised by service users.

“Therefore, the public is being encouraged to use these offices so that complaints are addressed.

Meanwhile, in an effort to increase access to COVID-19 testing, the Ministry of Health has increased testing sites to 149 for those conducting antigen tests across the country.

For PCR testing, there are 15 laboratories are available — at PHIM and the National HIV reference laboratory at CHSU; LUANAR lab and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe; Queen Elizabeth Central, Welcome Trust and College of Medicine in Blantyre.

There is also Dream lab in Blantyre, Zomba Central Hospital, Mzuzu Central Hospital, Mzimba South District Hospital, Dream lab in Balaka, Nsanje District Hospital and Thyolo District Hospital and MUST in Thyolo.

The sites are as follows: