Apr 27, 2020 (LBO) – The Advocata Institute has previously highlighted the importance of expanding testing capacity with the engagement of the private sector. The government’s decision to increase the country’s testing capacity to 1000 tests a day, by utilising the capacity that exists in private hospitals is commendable.
On the 22nd of April, the government opened up the majority of the country, by removing the curfew between the hours of 5.00 am and 8.00 pm. The districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara and Puttalam, as high-risk regions remain under curfew till the 27th of April. This lifting of curfew has been accompanied by a series of regulations in order to ensure that physical distancing and other safety measures are adhered to.
As Sri Lanka moves away from curfew to a more relaxed lockdown, increased testing is vital. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has consistently called for increases in testing.
While the increase to 1000 tests per day is a welcome increase, Sri Lanka needs to expand testing beyond this. With the rise of asymptomatic cases, testing is essential to effectively tackle Covid-19. The government should work to utilize the full capacity of the country’s health sector; both state and private. The government should review NMRA and other government guidelines to ensure that there are no barriers to easy and low cost procurement. The removal of the price control on testing is a key part of this – as the price control does not account for the costs of medical personnel, personal protective equipment and other overheads such as safe disposal of waste. The state sector will be able continue conducting free tests, and the expansion of capacity in the private sector will relieve some of the burden on the state.
Removing these barriers will increase the availability of test kits and the government will be able to open up for voluntary testing. In this scenario, where employers and employees can even enter cost-sharing agreements for testing, and individuals can independently get tested, you widen the net of testing and ease the burden on the state sector. Voluntary testing would also help allow for a safer gradual opening of the economy.
- The Advocata Institute welcomes the government’s decision to partner with the private sector and increase testing capacity to a 1000 tests per day.
- Barriers to efficient procurement of tests should be removed immediately, including the existing price control. The goal should be to effectively utilise the country’s entire health sector; both state and private.
- Allow for voluntary testing through the private sector, in order to increase testing numbers and reduce stress on the state system.
Advocata is an independent policy think tank based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We conduct research, provide commentary and hold events to promote sound policy ideas compatible with a free society in Sri Lanka. Visit advocata.org for more information.