College of Medial Laboratory Science warns of pitfalls in rapid antigen testing
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The government was currently relying solely on rapid antigen tests for its random testing programme and that could lead to issues unless special attention was paid to errors in such test results, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, Ravi Kumudesh warned yesterday.
Kumudesh told The Island that rapid antigen tests were a quick fix, it was common for those tests to have errors.
Kumudesh said: “We need to have an external quality control mechanism to verify these results. Before sending people to quarantine or treatment centres based on rapid antigen tests, the health minister can also subject them to PCR tests.”
Commenting on the random testing that was being conducted, Kumudesh said that at least 10 mobile labs should be set up by the government, and they should have the ability to conduct both PCR tests and rapid antigen tests. Unfortunately, the Health Ministry hadn’t paid attention to it, he said.
“The Health Ministry doesn’t talk to relevant professionals about testing at the grassroots. Practical issues at that level are not addressed as a result. If we fail to provide accurate test results people will lose their faith in the entire system.
“There are four ministers entrusted with various aspects of health. However, the President has to say where random testing has to be done. For the ministry to take swift action, the President has to issue orders. It is obvious that this is not a healthy situation. The COVID-19 eradication programme will head for a serious crisis if relevant officers twiddle their thumbs until the President issues orders.”
Kumudesh said that while replacing PCR tests with rapid antigen testing would produce a large number of false data and wrong mapping of the COVID hotspots.
However, given the current health crisis, they were not opposed to the use of rapid antigen test kits strategically, he said.
Kumudesh said: “In the broader context, the rapid antigen testing is like a straw given to a desperate drowning man but we are in a position where even this straw might come in handy. We believe that the sensitivity of the test, based on peer reviewed research conducted by other countries, to be around 50-60%. The Health Ministry must create an algorithm, identify areas where PCR testing can’t be done and use the rapid tests there. It would be good even if we can get some results in an area where PCR testing is impossible but it will be a mess if we try to substitute rapid antigen testing for PCR testing.”
SF claims thousands of police and military personnel leaving
By Saman Indrajith
Thousands of police and military personnel had left the services recently as they did not want to carry out illegal orders, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday. According to the war-winning army commander 200 policemen have resigned during the past two months and 25,000 soldiers have left the army during the last two years.
“We urged the law enforcement and military officials not to follow illegal orders. We will reinstate them with back pay,” he said.
Fonseka also urged the President and the government MPs not to take people for fools.
“Sri Lanka owes 55 billion dollars to the world. Ranil’s plan is to borrow another seven billion during the next four years. So, in four years we will owe 62 billion to the world.
Ranil and his ministers ask us what the alternative to borrowing is. These are the people who destroyed the economy and society. They must leave. Then, we will find an alternative and develop the country,” he said, adding that the IMF loans had made crises in other nations worse.
“Ranil says that by 2025, we will have a budget surplus as in Japan, Germany and South Korea. These countries are economic power houses, and this comparison is ludicrous.”
CEB hit by exodus of technical staff
By Shiran Ranasinghe
At least five technical personnel of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) resigned daily for overseas employment, a senior CEB official said.They included electrical engineers, electricians and foremen, he added.
“Most of them are quitting due to the economic crisis while others are simply disillusioned. Trained and experienced technical staff are in high demand in many countries,” he said.
CEB United Trade Union Alliance President Ranjan Jayalal said that the CEB had lost about 2,000 employees in recent times due to the above reasons.
“We had about 24,000 such personnel a few months ago. Now the number has come down to 22,000. A number of people had to retire on 31 December, 2022.
Sajith questions sudden decision to charge Rs. 225,000 from students following NDES
By Saman Indrajith
The government had decided to charge Rs 225,000 from those enrolling at the Institute of Engineering Technology, Katunayake under the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said yesterday in Parliament.
Premadasa said that the institute awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences (NDES) and no fee was charged from students until 2023.The IET awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences under the three major fields of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and eight sub-fields.
“This is an institute that has created over ten thousand tier two engineers. NDES is a four year programme,” he said.
The opposition leader said that the sudden decision to charge 225,000 rupees from students at a time when the average Sri Lankan family is facing significant economic challenges is unfair.
“This institute offered free tuition. We should continue this tradition. A large number of engineers are leaving the country and we need to ensure that we have a continuous supply of engineers to ensure we can maintain our essential technical services,” he said.
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