Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today cautioned that a ‘rapid test kit’ (RTK) being sold in the market could not help with the early detection of Covid-19.
He said this was because human antibodies only appear after five to eight days following the coronavirus infection.
“Hence, the test kit, which is currently available in the market to detect antibodies produced due to infection, cannot detect the virus or confirm infection quickly.
“Therefore, RTK is not recommended for the purpose of diagnosing Covid-19,” he said during a daily press conference on Covid-19.
He also urged member of the public not to take the RTK test without first consulting the medical practitioners, as it may cause misunderstanding and create worry over the outcome of the test.
Private PCR tests cost up to RM700, he added.
Dr Noor Hisham said laboratory tests conducted at government health facilities for Covid-19 infection are using the Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) technique.
“The rRT-PCR test will detect the presence of the Covid-19 virus in the patient’s body.
“Therefore, a positive Covid-19 rRT-PCR test means that the individual has been infected with the Covid-19 virus.”
Dr Noor Hisham added that accurate test results through rRT-PCR techniques are crucial in the effective management of Covid-19 patients.
Yesterday, it was reported that a company was set to bring in a Covid-19 test kit for the Malaysian market, pending approval from the government.
The company claimed that the test kit has fulfilled regulatory requirements in the United States, clearing the way for the sale of the devices there.
The company said the test kits, developed by a reputable Chinese biomedical company, has qualified for emergency use authorisation granted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under a policy to accelerate detection and diagnosis during public health emergencies.
The test kit enables the early detection of the Covid-19 virus through the use of blood samples obtained from finger-pricking, specifically by detecting the presence of antibodies.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry hopes to reach South Korean levels of Covid-19 testing by next month, that is, to be able to test 16,000 patients within weeks.
“If we learn from the Korean experience, they are doing 20,000 tests per day. We are not that far…we can approach that in one or two weeks’ time.
“If you can test more people who are asymptomatic, we can isolate them and treat them earlier.
“Once we lock a group down, we will continue to look into the target group. Certain groups have high risks. If we can pick them up early, that is much better.”
Dr Noor Hisham also spoke of flattening the curve: “It means we are helping the hospital’s capacity to treat patients. If there is a sudden spike, we have to choose which patient has the privilege of ventilation.”
On whether Malaysia could approach the levels Italy is experiencing, he said it was up to “each and everyone one of you”.
“This is why we urge the public to stay at home.”
He added, however, that the current Covid-19 death rate in the country is below the world average of 4.5%.
“(A rate of) 4.5% means 45 deaths. But we have 15 so far.”