With 5,000 samples tested, Central Public Health Laboratories works 24/7

Muscat: Volunteers from different establishments have come forward to join the Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL) to keep up with the growing number of test samples for COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, the CPHL has tested more than 5000 samples.

The Central Public Health Laboratories is considered as the national laboratories for diagnosis and viral infection, bacterial infections and other rare viruses.  It is also the referral lab for Tuberculosis and food poisoning outbreaks.  The CPHL also has specific labs for malaria, toxicology, biochemistry as well as for quality and risk management.  That is why the CPHL is known as the National Diagnostic and Reference Lab of Oman.

It caters to many of the health care establishments in the Sultanate and with the COVID-19 pandemic CPHL receives all the samples for diagnosis of Coronavirus.

“For diagnosis, we receive the samples of the nasopharyngeal swab (NP) and throat swab collected from different institutions for those cases that are meeting the concerned definitions of Coronavirus.  Once we receive the samples here we run a test called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) for the detection of the virus and then we release these results to the medical team and the surveillance department so that they can take the appropriate measures for the treatment in addition to support the infection control for the public health,” said Dr. Amina al Jardani, Director of the Central Public Health Laboratories.

Daily reports to go to the aforementioned departments as the CPHL is part of the National Team for the Preparedness and Response to this outbreak, which is why the Central Public Health Laboratories is represented in the Main Task Force.  Their daily meetings with epidemiologists and surveillance section is in addition to being part of establishing guidelines on how to deal with cases such as what the nation is going through currently. These guidelines go through case definitions, the measures to be taken for containment, information control, etc.

“We started preparing for this in January 2020 for the diagnosis of COVID -19.  We had purchased all the testing kits and facilities and completed training people to activate our contingency plan.  We now have several people coming from different sections to assist in the Virology section,” she explained.

The team has extended their working hours up to 14 hours a day.  “We have been lucky because we have also had support from other establishments to support our work to fight this pandemic.  So we have volunteers from other centers such as National Genetics Center, Al Nahda Hospital, Royal Hospital, Petroleum Development and other institutions in the Muscat Governorate.  With their enthusiasm, hard work and commitment from the team we have been able to work smoothly even though the samples to be tested for COVID-19 have been increasing but the team has been consistent to maintain the turnaround time and the quality of the tests so that the medical and surveillance team can take steps accordingly,” she explained.

Since the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, the CPHL has tested more than 5000 samples.

Adal al Barwani from Petroleum Development Oman has joined the workforce and he works from 12 to 8 pm, “I am from PDO Medical Clinic and I work at the lab.  We support each other in a crisis like this and my request to everyone out there is – ‘Stay at home for us because we are here for you.’”  Rajesh Kumar, Molecular Bacerologist at the CPHL, said it is important for people to stay at home.  The samples continue to arrive.

Ashwak al Maimani, meanwhile is from the National Genetics Center, “My colleagues have come to volunteers.  We receive the samples and conduct the extraction in addition to documentation of Coronavirus cases.  We have two shifts morning and night.”

 And this is what Dr. Amina would like to request to the public, “Please adhere to the measures taken by the Ministry of Health and the authorities to contain this virus.  I want to call everyone to be part of this responsibility and practice their responsibility and commitment by adhering to the infection control measure which is hand and respiratory hygiene, in addition to quarantine and isolation.  Everyone must adhere to this because this is the only way out of it.  Without this collaboration from all the sectors and every individual in the country we will not be able to control the outbreak,” Dr Amina stressed.

Dr Hannan al Kindy Head of Virology Department said, “First of all I want to thank everyone who is staying home and following the advice that has been given to them.  And I hope everybody does the same so the number of cases will go down.”

“I would like to say we are here for you and we care about your health.  Please stay home for us,” said Dr. Samira al Mahrouqi, Molecular biologist at the Virology Department.