South Africa is rolling out a massive coronavirus testing drive across the country in light of increasing numbers of confirmed cases, which now stands at 1380.
As part of the drive, the Department of Health has launched a mobile testing initiative, through the procurement of 67 new government sampling and testing units. These will be deployed nationwide to all districts and metropolitan municipalities, according to Minister of Health Zweli Mhkize.
Reportedly, the test kits inside the vehicles, developed by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last week and can process results in 45 minutes.
— KhayelihleKhumalo (@KhayaJames) April 1, 2020
Minister Mkhize accompanied by MEC Bandile Masuku and CEO of NHLS, Dr Kamy Chetty unveiling the NHLS Mobile Laboratory pic.twitter.com/w7CkDOLKm6
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) April 1, 2020
In his address to the nation on Monday night (30 March), President Cyril Ramaphosa assured the country of the government’s commitment to combating rising cases of local transmission.
“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Around 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for Covid-19 symptoms,” he said.
“People with symptoms will be referred to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing. People who are infected with coronavirus, but who have no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by government and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals.”
“Using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system will be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real-time,” he added.
Prior to mobile testing, Dr Zweli Mhkize said the current capacity of South Africa’s laboratories had been pushed to 5000 tests in 24 hours in 10 laboratories. Although over 42 000 people have been tested for the virus so far, mainly in private in institutions, Mhkize noted there is room for improvement.
“This (number of people tested) for us is way too few for the size of population and inequality, poverty and underlying burden of diseases and immune suppression we have. Even though this number seems high, it is way too low for the kind of challenges that South Africa faces,” she said.
Mkhize believes that mobile testing is paramount to help South Africans get an honest and realistic assessment of the level of spread the coronavirus has had in the country thus far.