Only a handful of reference labs offer testing for the novel coronavirus

Medical workers in protective gear talk with a woman suspected of being ill with a coronavirus at a community health station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

The novel coronavirus which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan has spread to over a dozen other countries. World Health Organization (WHO), in its efforts to control the outbreak, is working on improving accessibility to diagnostic services for the new virus. There are, at present, only a handful of reference labs in the world which provide testing for the new virus.

Health Ministry, in a press conference on Tuesday, announced that lab tests for the new virus is not available in Maldives. It said that the service is presently available only in Hong Kong and Netherlands.

A conclusive diagnosis of the new virus requires a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

According to Chinese media reports, work is underway to establish facilities to conduct the PCR test in Wuhan – the epicenter of the outbreak.

Abdulla Niyaf, Chief Medical Officer at ADK Hospital, told Sun that a dedicated test kit for the novel coronavirus had yet to be established.

“There are only a few reference labs in the world equipped to conduct PCR test. Maldives, if it needs to conduct the test, will need to send samples to the labs, and will receive quick reports,” said Niyaf.

He said that many countries used the same reference labs, and that Maldives, too, would need to send samples to those labs.

According to Niyaf, the standard for identification of people infected with new virus used in Maldives is the same as the rest of the world, and that a specific treatment for the virus had yet to be established.

While any confirmed, or even suspected cases of the new virus have yet to be detected in Maldives, the Maldivian authorities have implemented measures to respond to a potential spread of the virus into Maldives.

Health Ministry has announced the decision to use K. Funadhoo, an island which neighbors the capital, Male’ City as a quarantine island, and has established isolation facilities in Velana International Airport (VIA) and suburban Hulhumale’, and a four-bed ICU in Dharumavantha Hospital to treat novel coronavirus patients who may require critical care.

The new virus has claimed the lives of at least 132 people and has infected over 6,000 people in China and other countries.