Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Pharma Firm Donates Device to Massively Increase COVID-19 Testing

By Nyein Nyein 6 April 2020

Myanmar’s largest pharmaceutical distribution company donated a new COVID-19 testing machine to the country’s health ministry on Sunday that can run more than 1,400 tests per day, a major increase from the government’s current testing capacity of around 80 tests per day.

The donation is one of many by conglomerates in the country, as companies have donated medical supplies such as masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as money to support the government in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, AA Medical Products Limited made a donation worth nearly US$590,000 to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS), including a device that can quickly analyze coronavirus tests and funds to renovate the National Health Laboratory’s (NHL) Virology Lab. The company also donated enough reagents—the chemical compounds used to run the tests—to test over 1,100 people.

An MOHS spokesperson said the new donated machine—a Swiss-made Cobas 6800 medical analyzer—is a very recent model and will allow Myanmar to run many more tests than its current capacity of 80 people per day.

Dr. Tha Tun Kyaw, the director-general and new spokesperson for the MOHS, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that they will be able to test more than 1,400 people per day with the new machine.

“The machine can quickly and efficiently test 380 people at a time and we will have three shifts per day at Yangon’s NHL,” said Dr. Tha Tun Kyaw. The machine is still on its way to Myanmar and is now at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

As of Sunday, Myanmar has tested 1,246 people for COVID-19, according to Dr. Tha Tun Kyaw, of which 21 tested positive and one died last week.

The NHL currently provides testing only to those who meet specific criteria, due to limited laboratory capacity.

“We won’t test everyone, unless they fall under the respective criteria, but we will prepare to take their swabs if they show symptoms,” he added. People in Myanmar have voiced concerns on social media that some people in home quarantine, including health care workers, who had close contact with COVID-19 patients have not yet been tested.

Across the country, 70 health care workers are currently under 14-day quarantine.

The NHL in Yangon is currently the only place that can conduct tests but the government is preparing another lab, located in Mandalay, to meet the biosafety standards necessary to conduct testing.

Dr. Saw Nay Nwe, director of AA Medical Products Limited as well as Pacific AA Group, posted on Facebook that “The analyzer and reagent have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), and immediately after this approval, we’ve tried to import these products to Myanmar.”

She added her sincere thanks to Roche Diagnostics, the manufacturer of the testing machine, for prioritizing their order “over the requests of other, developed countries.”

The company also made a donation worth US$35,000 to MOHS and the Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease on March 15.

Last week, Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank also donated nearly $1 million-worth of medical supplies and protective equipment for hospital staff.

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