The acting minister of public health, Ahmad Jawad Osmani, on Saturday said that the COVID-19 testing is not within the ministry’s capacity due to lack of testing centers and an overload of applicants.
Osmani stated that with the country moving towards the peak of the virus, the process of testing of COVID-19 samples will change into clinical testing, meaning that a medical worker will determine a COVID-19 case simply by judging from symptoms.
The transfer to clinical testing will also allow the private clinics and hospitals in the country to conduct the testing of COVID-19 samples.
According to the health minister, the medical equipment that was pledged by UNICEF has so far not arrived in the country.
“We could not activate testing centers in 34 provinces…right now, we have laboratories in 11 provinces, but the medical equipment which was pledged to us by UNICEF has not arrived--the equipment that would have enabled us to expand the testing process to 34 provinces,” said Osmani.
“We plan to increase testing capacity in 34 provinces, but this needs time and it is out of the control of the Ministry of Public Health,” added Osmani.
The statement comes as Afghans are already faced with economic hardships and it would be beyond their capacity to consult private hospitals for testing in exchange for money.
The ministry at first vowed to increase the testing capacity to 5,000 tests a day but never met its target and now it conducts 1,000 tests a day. It approaches 1,500 samples some days.
The total known cases of the coronavirus surpassed 24,000 on Saturday as 566 new positive cases were reported.
The main testing centers are in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Kandahar.
Osmani said to overcome the issue, health workers will conduct clinical tests besides PCR tests from COVID-19 suspects.
Also, the ministry allowed private clinics and health centers to conduct COVID-19 tests, he said, calling his decision “a national mobilization” between the private sector and the government for better response to COVID-19.
He added that health equipment will be provided to all health centers, government and non-government, to start treatment and testing of COVID-19 patients.
Health experts have often warned that the actual numbers of the coronavirus cases are much higher in the country.
The Afghan government has received millions in aid for coronavirus response and an adequate number of testing kits. The Ministry of Public Health did not provide information on the number of testing kits available.
“The new decision that we have made is that any patient that visits health centers with clinical symptoms, they will be recognized as a coronavirus patient and will be admitted for treatment,” Osmani added.
He said that those who show clinical symptoms will be helped in their homes by the health teams. He added that there is no need to rely on a rapid test as it is not effective.
So far, the ministry has tested over 54,000 samples and 451 people have died from the coronavirus in the country, according to figures by Ministry of Public Health.