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PUTRAJAYA, March 4 -- The Health Ministry (MOH) has identified seven hospitals to conduct field assessments on the deep throat saliva sampling method for the COVID-19 screening tests.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said currently, the MOH was still using the nasopharyngeal (nose) and oropharyngeal (throat) swab methods to detect COVID-19 cases.
“We are now at the evaluation stage and we hope to get the complete report before recommending the deep throat saliva sampling method for the Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) and Antigen Rapid Test Kit (RTK-Ag) tests.
“Hopefully, this method will provide accuracy and precision in detecting COVID-19 positive cases,” he said in a media conference on COVID-19 development here, today.
Elaborating, he said the seven hospitals were the Kuala Lumpur Hospital; Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Alor Setar, Kedah; Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu; Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selangor; Melaka Hospital; Tuanku Jaafar Hospital, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; and Sultanah Aminah Hospital, Johor Bahru, Johor.
On vaccine supply to private hospitals, Dr Noor Hisham said that so far only the government has been given the authority to procure the vaccine.
“...and since there is a constraint to obtain the vaccine supply, we are allocating the vaccine in the first phase for the health personnel and frontliners.
“Currently, the ministry is also using the private hospitals' facilities as the vaccination centres,” he said.
To a question of whether the Health Minister would allow private hospitals to outsource the COVID-19 vaccine and sell it to their customers, Dr Noor Hisham said the government was providing free vaccination for all.
"We are looking into equity as well, which means the priority is given to the high-risk group, vulnerable group and frontliners.
"We are now at phase one and we are giving (the vaccine) to the frontliners. Hopefully, in phase two, we are looking seriously into scaling up the vaccination to the vulnerable population.
"Most importantly is that we have enough supply and then probably we can roll out together (with private hospitals) in terms of a large scale vaccination," he said.
Updating on clusters related to old folks home, he said there were 15 active clusters with 610 people infected with the virus thus far (from the first wave), involving 583 Malaysians and 27 non-Malaysians.
"The total number screened so far in the old folks home is 1,840 individuals and the fatality rate is 1.48, slightly higher than the national fatality rate of 0.38," he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said as part of the strategy to protect this vulnerable group, physical gathering activities were put on hold in old folks home and the MOH also provides periodic assessment and screening in the homes.