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Recovered COVID-19 patients should not take PCR test for a while, says minister

Izah Azahari

Recovered COVID-19 patients are not encouraged to take the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab testing for at least three months after they have recovered, as per the recent statement from the Ministry of Health.

This was highlighted by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in yesterday’s press conference, adding that this is because the RT-PCR test will be able to detect any virus particle still present during its shedding from the lungs, and is not necessarily contagious.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham, however, noted that recovered COVID-19 patients can carry out the antigen rapid test (ART).

“If a person tests positive on the ART, their Cycle Threshold (CT) Value is at about 25 or below, depending on the condition such as their test kit type,” said the minister, explaining why people coming into the country from abroad who were already positive prior are only required to do the ART.

“If their ART is positive, then we will carry out a RT-PCR test,” said the minister.

Although the chances of being re-infected within the three months are very low, the minister said that the chances still exist. “Research findings from outside the country have also shown that the chances of re-infection are low a second time around within the three months due to recovered patients’ immunity, especially for those who have been vaccinated, and even more if they have had their booster dose,” said the minister.

Circling back to the use of ART, the minister said it is a precautionary measure because other variants can still infect a person who has recovered. For example, a person who had been infected with Delta can be re-infected with the Omicron variant.

Speaking on the grace period to take a booster dose after recovery for a recovered COVID-19 patient, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said that it is between at least a month to three months.

The reason for the interval is because those who have recovered have developed natural immunity from the infection, and to reinforce their immunity, a booster shot will be needed later on.

“We do not want those who have recovered to take the booster dose too early because there might be possible side effects,” said the minister, adding that an individual might not know whether these side effects may be due to the infection or the booster dose.

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