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.
“We started preparing for this in January 2020 for the diagnosis of COVID -19. We purchased all the testing kits and facilities and started training people to activate our contingency plan. We now have several people coming from different sections to assist in the Virology section,” said Dr. Amina al Jardani, Director, CPHL.
The team has extended working hours up to 14 hours a day. “We have been lucky because we have also had support from other establishments to fight this pandemic. So we have volunteers from other centers such as the 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.
Adal al Barwani from Petroleum Development Oman has joined the workforce and he works from 12 noon 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 Bacteriologist at the CPHL, said it is important for the people to stay at home.
Ashwak al Maimani is from the National Genetics Center. “My colleagues have come as volunteers. We receive the samples and conduct the extraction in addition to documentation of Coronavirus cases. We have two shifts morning and night.”
Dr. Amina called upon people to 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 like 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. 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.
The CPHL is national laboratory 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.
It caters to the needs of many of the health care establishments in the Sultanate and with the COVID-19 pandemic the CPHL receives all the samples for diagnosis purposes.
“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, 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 to take appropriate measures for treatment in addition to support the infection control for the public health,” said Dr. Amina.
Daily reports 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 CPHL is represented in the Main Task Force. Their daily meetings with epidemiologists and surveillance section are 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.