Official: Rapid testing kits behind large number of Covid cases

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A health worker conducts rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 in Phnom Penh. TYDA PAGE

The high number of new Covid-19 infections detected each day is due to the use of the Rapid Antigen Covid-19 test kits, especially in the red zones where most of the new cases originate, according to a senior Ministry of Health official.

Amid the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province, which began on April 15 and is scheduled to be lifted on May 6, the number of daily Covid-19 cases has not decreased, with nearly 1,000 cases recorded on May 4 alone.

Many measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus have been put in place in Phnom Penh, including dividing the capital into red, orange and yellow zones depending on transmission risks, among other restrictions.

Hok Kim Cheng, the health ministry’s technical director-general, told The Post on May 4 that the high daily records were due to the Rapid Antigen Covid-19 test kits, which take just 15 minutes to detect the virus.

“Most of the positive cases are found with residents in the red zones or the zones with the highest transmission risks. That’s what led us to lock down some parts of the capital with the highest transmission rates.

“More than 10 per cent of the samples tested in the red zone are coming back positive. We are still doing more tests in this area,” he said, adding that the three-week lockdown was not a long enough period of time to test all of the residents in the red zones, but testing continues.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine reiterated her call for people to practice preventive measures before transmission becomes uncontrollable.

“We have seen this sort of situation in India now. We don’t want to face such an event, right? If you want to avoid that, you will just have to accept that right now will be a difficult time. Nothing can protect us besides practicing the ‘three protections and three don’ts’, getting vaccinated and refrain from non-essential travel,” she said.

On May 4 alone, the ministry reported one new death and another 938 infections linked to the February 20 community outbreak, bringing the toll to 107 and 15,744 respectively in just over two months.

As of May 4, Cambodia had recorded a total of 16,299 Covid-19 cases, with 10,394 receiving treatment and 107 fatalities.

To date 23 private health services have been given permission to use the Rapid Antigen Test for Covid-19 while two major private hospitals have applied to treat Covid-19 patients, according to the Ministry of Health.

Hok Kim Cheng, the health ministry’s technical director-general, said in a live broadcast on National Television of Cambodia (TVK) on May 4 that the ministry had decided to allow private hospitals and clinics to use the Rapid Antigen Test for Covid-19 if they applied for permission to do so.

"Twenty-three private hospitals can now use the rapid test kits for Covid-19. And two other private hospitals – Cho Ray Phnom Penh Hospital and Visal Sok Polyclinic – are applying to have Covid-19 treatment centres," he said.

Kim Cheng said the ministry’s working group is reviewing the application documents and has fast-tracked the evaluations in order to make these private sector resources available for treatment of Covid-19 patients.

He said that when the private establishments open for Covid-19 treatment, people who can afford it should get the services there in order to relieve some of the pressure on public hospitals.

An official at Cho Ray Phnom Penh Hospital confirmed to The Post on May 4 that medical staff there are preparing for training related to this test after receiving the permit.

"Our hospital is preparing for the ministry to provide training on how to take samples for Covid-19 testing. But for treatment, we haven’t gotten permission from the ministry yet,” he said.