Experts to investigate COVID-19 testing facility in Thailand’s Yala province

Medical staff wearing protective clothing conduct test on residents for COVID-19 coronavirus in Benan Setar Hospital, in Thailand’s southern province of Yala due to high incidence of cases in the area. (Photo by Tuwaedaniya MERINGING / AFP)

A team of experts, from the Medical Science Department and Thailand’s Prince of Songkhla University, has been sent to the southern border province of Yala to investigate what went wrong with the COVID-19 testing procedures there, said Dr. Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Medical Science Department, today.

The problematic tests on 40 people in Yala province, which showed conflicting results when analyzed at different facilities in Yala and in Songkhla provinces, are now being analyzed at the Medical Science Department, with definitive results expected tomorrow (Wednesday), he added.

Since COVID-19 is an emerging disease, Dr. Opas admitted that it is not unusual to see occasional errors, which can be caused by human, machine or systemic factors.


The laboratory in Yala is one of 150 facilities set up this year to test for COVID-19 infections, in addition to the two original facilities at Chulalongkorn Hospital and the Medical Science Department.

He said that the World Health Organization has mandated a standard test, called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, which is capable of testing for coronavirus in people who exhibit only minor symptoms. This method is, however, complicated, expensive and needs to be administered by well-trained technicians, as well as requiring a specified level of bio safety.

Originally, two lab tests were required for confirmation of COVID-19 infection, he added.


The 150 facilities around the country have tested more than 227,000 specimens, and more will be tested, currently averaging 6,000 specimens a week, compared to 3,000 in April, said Dr. Opas.

He said the 40 cases in Yala became problematic because the negative control tests showed positive results and, according to normal procedures, testing at the lab, in such circumstances, must be suspended immediately and a report filed with the provincial health office for investigation.

He insisted, however, that all the country’s testing facilities have been instrumental in curbing the spread of the contagion and asked members of the public to have confidence in the standard of these facilities.


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