COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (24 June 2020) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has funded the construction and equipment of a new molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory at the Colombo East Base Hospital to support Sri Lanka in its response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The facility was declared open by Minister of Health and Indigenous Medical Services Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

This new facility, Sri Lanka’s largest PCR laboratory, will increase the country’s testing capacity by 30%. The PCR test is the main confirmatory test which helps identify and manage the patient and confirm that the patient has completely recovered from the infection.

The building, constructed within the hospital premises on hospital land, is equipped with PCR machines, consumables, pharmacological refrigerators and freezers, generator, reagents, and dedicated utilities such as water supply, electricity, and telecommunication. In addition, all other operational support, such as training, laboratory information system, technical assistance on trouble shooting, and a waste disposal system are also provided.

The new laboratory complex will not only enhance the diagnostic capacity of the country, but will also improve the quality of care, while ensuring the safety of laboratory and health staff who handle patients’ samples not only from the Colombo East Base Hospital but also from hospitals in other parts of Sri Lanka.

“We are glad to have contributed to the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka through this new laboratory complex, which will conduct investigations on high risk patients  in a conducive environment both for patients and the laboratory staff,” said ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Chen Chen. “The Ministry of Highways and the Ministry of Power and Energy have contributed valuably through the construction of a wider and better access road to the laboratory, provision of materials during this difficult situation, and the establishment of a dedicated power line for the laboratory.”

The funds for the construction and equipment of the PCR laboratory forms part of  ADB’s $15 million repurposed funds for Sri Lanka Health System Enhancement Project, which was reallocated in late February to finance preventive and response efforts against the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

“Despite Sri Lanka’s well established health system, the country was in urgent need of increasing its diagnostic capacity of the COVID-19 infection. The Asian Development Bank responded without delay by providing the necessary funds to establish a PCR laboratory at the Colombo East Base Hospital,” said the Secretary of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services Dr. S. H. Munasinghe. “We express our gratitude and appreciation to ADB for its continuous support and assistance during this pandemic.”

In April 2020, ADB announced a $20 billion comprehensive response package to support its developing members through finance, knowledge, and partnerships to address the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

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