PESHAWAR: The health department has asked the district health officers and medical superintendents of hospitals to scale up public awareness of Covid-19 testing saying the province has recorded a continuous reduction in sample collection.
“There’s 40 per cent reduction in swab collection in the last one week and we need to spread public awareness that testing is important to diagnose patients in a timely manner,” said a senior official of the health department.
He said the people could call the department’s toll free number 1700 anywhere in the province to undergo testing.
Our health workers visit the homes of people after they receive calls and take their swabs and communicate the result withing 24 hours, he said.
According to the official, the province has the capacity of around 3,000 tests daily but around 1,700 tests are done daily.
Department asks DHOs, hospital heads to scale up testing awareness
He said low testing was a matter of concern as it could snowball into a major health issue.
“A week ago, we utilised all our testing capacity at 12 labs of the province but now, there is a decline in swab collection for investigation as the people are unwilling to come for voluntary testing and as a result, there’s a sample reduction, which isn’t good,” he said.
The official said the department held a training session with health workers, police and water and sanitation services to trace the contacts of confirmed Covid-19 patients for testing.
He said the district health officers and hospital medical superintendents had been directed to enhance Covid-19 awareness.
“There is an OPD and triage system in hospitals, where our health workers ask the people about Covid-19 symptoms in their neighbourhoods. Our members of rapid response team collect samples from homes,” he said.
The official said after the government enforced smart lockdown, coronavirus sample collection declined drastically in all provinces for similar reasons.
“People think that after testing positive for Covid-19, the administration will close down their areas and restrict their movements, so they hesitate to give samples,” a senior official said.
The official said as a protocol, the department had to test at least 10 people in the area, which recorded a coronavirus case, but when health workers went there for sample collection, contacts of confirmed patients denied having symptoms and refused to undergo test.
“The government has implemented a strategy throughout the province under which the district administrations and health department make sure that contacts of confirmed patients are traced and tested,” he said.
The official said reduction in samples from hard-hit districts, including Peshawar, Swat, Malakand, Dir and Abbottabad are a matter of grave concern because there are people who were positive despite not having had symptoms but can still transmit the ailment to others, he said.
Nobody can be subjected to testing for Covid-19 because it was totally voluntary, he said. But the trend of refusing to giave swabs for testing is dangerous, he said. Our capacity to diagnose cases, has increased and tests were done in every district but we need to convince the people to come and call our number so we can get their samples, he said.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020