'No immediate need to queue up for sample collection': HPA

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said there is no reason to queue up for PCR testing in capital Male'.

With a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the Greater Male' Region, HPA on Sunday revised guidelines such that a negative PCR test result no older than 72 hours is required to travel out of Male'. While a large number of people are currently visiting Male' from the atolls for the school term break, many are queueing up to get their tests done so they may travel back to their islands as scheduled. Many parents with young children had to stay in queue late into the night to get their samples taken.

HPA later said concessions had been made for those traveling from Male' on Monday and Tuesday.

Speaking to AVAS, HPA's Quality Assurance Commissioner Thasleema Usman said only those traveling on January 12th, Wednesday, will need their samples taken on Monday. As those traveling on Monday and Tuesday do not need to have PCR test results, they can get tested after they return to their islands, she said.

Thasleema said HPA has previously communicated that PCR tests will be required when traveling to the atolls if the positivity rate rises above five percent. She acknowledged that the decision would cause difficulties to the public but said that such measures are necessary to control the spread of the virus.

'We are always working to increase the number of staff at flu clinics and sample centers. The numbers are rising suddenly after remaining low for a long time. We discuss whether it is possible to establish additional sample collection centers. However, I do not believe the queues should be this long today,' Thasleema said.

Although PCR results are not required for those traveling on Monday and Tuesday, they must remain in quarantine upon arrival until they receive their test results.