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College of Medial Laboratory Science warns of pitfalls in rapid antigen testing

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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.”



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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman

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Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand

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At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night

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President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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