Health ministry to study use of 2 new drugs to treat Covid-19 patients

The health ministry is likely to start using antigen rapid test kits to screen for Covid-19 from this Friday.

PUTRAJAYA: Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the government will study the possibility of using two unregistered drugs from Japan and China to treat Covid-19 patients.

“We can approve them,” he said during a press conference to provide an update on the Covid-19 crisis in the country.

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

He said the ministry would need to consider the option carefully as there were side-effects.

He said the drugs Avigan, a flu-drug from Japan, and Fukaikan, from China, had been reported as being effective against the virus.

Meanwhile, he said the government was likely to start using antigen rapid-testing kits this Friday.

“If the antigen rapid-testing kits are verified to be effective, we can use them. The results can be obtained faster and will be more accurate,” he said.

He said 18 laboratories, including five from the private sector, were testing Covid-19 samples at present.

“Now, we can do 6,000 samples a day. We expect to increase this capacity next week, even without using these rapid test-kits, to 16,000.”

Noting that South Korea had the capacity to test 20,000 samples a day, he added: “We want to increase our capacity even further.”

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said today the government would be conducting mass-screenings, after announcing a two-week extension to the movement control order (MCO).

Noor Hisham said target groups and hotspot locations would be identified, listing tabligh groups and refugee communities as examples.

“We will identify the target groups and then we will conduct the mass screenings. If they are positive, we will isolate and treat them. That’s the concept — active case detection using mass diagnosis.”

The death toll related to Covid-19 has climbed to 19, following two more deaths.

The two latest casualties, both in Johor, include case number 1,625, a 56-year-old man with chronic illnesses, and case 1,246, a 68-year-old woman.

Noor Hisham said there were 172 new cases today, bringing the total to 1,796.