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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Rajiv questions funding for Socso's subsidised Covid-19 testing scheme


Bukit Gasing assemblyperson Rajiv Rishyakaran, who has rolled out a programme to provide affordable Covid-19 testing for Selangor residents, has questioned supposed discrepancies in the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) funding for a mass screening programme for migrant workers.

He noted that the government first announced that Socso will be subsidising up to RM60 for each test while the remainder would be borne by their employers, but later said Socso will only be supplying the test kits while employers would have to foot the bill for the clinics’ services.

Rajiv said he has managed to provide the same test for only RM70 that would cover both the rapid antigen test kits (RTK-Ag) and the clinics’ service charges.

“The amount of kits that I bought were in a much smaller quantity than what Sosco would be buying, meaning their test kits would also cost far less than what I am buying it for.

“I can assure that the test kits' price would only be half of what they were planning to subsidise, given the quantity they will be purchasing.

“This raises an important question - are they subsidising lower than the amount promised, or is a 'broker' making a cut from this deal?” he said in a statement today.

Rajiv was responding to the government programme for migrant workers following several large Covid-19 outbreaks involving workers’ dormitories.

“I strongly urge Socso to explain themselves on where the balance of the money is going, be open about the price of the RTK-Ag testing and allow all swab certified private clinics an equal chance to get on board for the sake of our well-being,” he added.

The first phase of testing started today in Klang and Seremban, while testing for other red zones in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang will begin on Dec 9.

Testing for migrant workers in other districts in Selangor, Penang, and Negeri Sembilan will begin on Dec 16, along with Sabah and Labuan.

Employers would have to book appointments with panel clinics in advance for their workers to undergo screening, a list of which is available from Socso’s website.

The test will use an antigen test to detect the presence of the virus that causes Covid-19, which is faster and easier to use but is less sensitive than the "gold standard" reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

The test kits in question are "Standard Q Covid-19 Ag" manufactured by the South Korean firm SD Biosensor.

The Health Ministry had started procuring and deploying the same test kits since April after finding that it has a sensitivity of 84.4 percent and specificity of 100 percent, and can be used with rudimentary equipment to deliver results within half an hour.

At a briefing on Nov 21, the ministry said further testing revealed that the sensitivity is actually 90 percent, meaning that the test is capable of correctly identifying nine out of 10 Covid-19 patients with no false positives.

Studies have suggested that test sensitivity is only of secondary importance to the ability to conduct screening frequently and rapidly.

Previously, Rajiv had announced a programme that would allow all Selangor residents including foreigners to book appointments to take the test for only RM70 compared to the normal price between RM150 and RM180 per test.

This was done without subsidies and is possible by purchasing the test kits in bulk, he said in his announcement last week.

B40 earners registered under Bantuan Prihatin Nasional who live in Bukit Gasing are eligible for a subsidised rate of RM30 per person. - Mkini

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