Testing times: Myanmar struggles to keep pace as COVID-19 takes off

On September 30, Myanmar announced a record 946 COVID-19 cases in a single day. Less noticed was that it also performed a record number of lab tests – 6,262, to be exact.

As cases have increased, particularly in Yangon, numbers like this have quickly become the norm. In response to the second wave, the country’s various testing facilities have had to ramp up from processing around 2,000 samples a day at the end of August and are now regularly exceeding 5,000 tests a day, ministry figures show.

“The main priority is testing the primary contacts [of COVID-19 patients], patients under investigation, and people leaving quarantine sites to make sure they are clear,” said Dr Than Naing Soe, health ministry spokesperson and the director of its Health Literacy and Promotion Unit.

Leading the way is Yangon’s National Health Laboratory, which is routinely carrying out 2,500 tests or more a day – close to half the national total. Around 80 staff work in two shifts to process samples around the clock using RT-PCR testing equipment, including the Cobas 6800.

Keep reading