Saudi health chiefs warn against use of unreliable COVID-19 tests

Saudi health chiefs warn against use of unreliable COVID-19 tests
A Saudi man and his daughter stroll down the seafront promenade in the Saudi seaport of jeddah, on June 21, 2020, as the country re-opens following the lifting of a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2020

Saudi health chiefs warn against use of unreliable COVID-19 tests

Saudi health chiefs warn against use of unreliable COVID-19 tests

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday warned against the use of unreliable testing methods for detecting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Officials said that the only recommended way of checking citizens for COVID-19 infection was the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

“We do not recommend antibody rapid testing and neither do research and health organizations. The only recommended test for COVID-19 is the PCR test,” said ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly.

He also pointed out that panic and excessive paranoia could harm individuals and those around them. “In contrast, undermining precautionary measures and not adhering to them can cause irreparable damage,” he added.

As the Kingdom entered the third phase of easing curfew restrictions, Al-Aly noted that those attending mosques for group prayers should practice their ablution at home, take their own prayer mat, and read the Qur’an online.

When lining up for prayers, he said worshippers must maintain the recommended space between each other, avoid overcrowding, cover their nose and mouth, and refrain from touching surfaces wherever possible.

“The highest sense of respect toward your neighbors and relatives when you meet them at the mosque is to nod at them in acknowledgment and not shake their hand or greet them intimately. You may end up educating someone else on how to carry on with others,” he said.

For people using car hailing services, Al-Aly pointed out that passengers should try to sit in the back seat, and those traveling by plane or boat should check their temperature before heading to the airport or seaport.

He said that children over the age of two could wear a face mask. “When out, children should always be accompanied by an adult at all times. Someone who will monitor their movements and interactions and not get distracted by any trivialities.”

The Kingdom recorded 39 new COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday, raising the total to 1,346. There were 3,139 new cases reported in the country, meaning 164,144 people had now contracted the disease. There were 52,913 active cases, with 2,122 of them in a serious or critical condition.

The health ministry added that 393 of the newly recorded cases were in Jeddah, while 299 were reported in Riyadh and 277 in Makkah. Another 4,710 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 109,885.

Meanwhile, Al-Aly highlighted the ministry’s Eshara app which was dedicated to helping hearing-impaired people with appointments and medical consultations and connecting them with teams in the emergency services who use sign language.

The app is the first of its kind that offers free, instant translation for video calls catered to those with hearing conditions, allowing them to communicate with service providers through a translator.