CMLS claims actual Covid infections 40 times the official numbers

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Claiming that the Health Ministry does not collect data on Covid-19 infections in a systematic manner, the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) alleged that there are about 40 times as many Covid-19 infections in the society as the number of infections mentioned in the media reports issued by the Health Ministry.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (31 January), CMLS President Ravi Kumudesh said that due to the Health Ministry’s lack of interest in conducting Covid-19 tests and its reluctance to make scientific predictions about the pandemic situation, a certain misconception and underestimation of the Covid-19 pandemic situation was being created amongst the public.

“In fact, we can assume that there are more than 20 times as many cases of Covid-19 infections in the country as mentioned in the Health Ministry reports. The more serious situation is that there are about 40 times as many infections in the society as the number of infections mentioned in the reports issued to the media by the Health Ministry,” he claimed.

Speaking further, he said: “For example, on 29 January, the number of cases mentioned in the Health Ministry’s reports was 1,993, but according to the media reports, the number of cases detected on that day was 982. There is an almost twofold reduction. If we add to this number of infections, the number of people who have not been tested, it will increase further.”

Kumudesh noted that it could be estimated that about 40,000 Covid-19-infected people are in the community at any given time. He also said that due to the lack of testing in the country, more than half of those who are well known to have been infected with Covid-19 are not being tested.

“The Health Ministry has gone astray without making predictions about the pandemic and has not been able to prevent it from spreading unnecessarily. It is the responsibility of the laboratory service to make accurate scientific predictions, but it is unfortunate that the heads of the laboratory services do not act with such understanding,” he further alleged.

Meanwhile, during a media briefing held yesterday, Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General (DDG), and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath was questioned by the media regarding recent allegations made by various quarters that the data presented by the Health Ministry regarding Covid-19 infections was incorrect.

He replied: “Data collection of Covid-19 infections is not something that is done by one person or a small team. It is a panel of doctors who collect and analyse the relevant data. Therefore, if anyone feels that the data on Covid-19 patients reported anywhere is not included in the database, inform the Health Ministry about such.”

Furthermore, responding to an allegation by the All Ceylon Nurses’ Union that the number of random polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and rapid antigen tests (RATs) conducted in the community to detect Covid-19 patients has been reduced by the Health Ministry, Dr. Herath told The Morning that nearly 30,000 random Covid-19 tests including PCR tests and RATs are being conducted throughout the country on a daily basis.