SA rolls out mobile COVID-19 testing units

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

In light of the increasing incidence of COVID-19 local transmissions, it has become necessary to scale up the country’s capacity to test citizens.

For this reason, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, officially launched 67 mobile sampling and testing units to be deployed nationwide to all districts and metropolitan municipalities.

Mkhize unveiled the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) Mobile Laboratory and inspected the inside of the sampling and testing mobile units at the NHLS head office in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.

The Minister was shown the Portable class lll glove kit - a field deployable unit, where samples can be prepared.

Accompanied by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and CEO of NHLS Dr Kamy Chetty, Mkhize said the vehicles must go to all the areas that have been identified as hotspots and those who are symptomatic must be tested first.

The department was procuring rapid test kits to allow for faster results.

Mkhize said many people needed to get tested to get a true picture of the spread of the virus in the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the roll out of the large-scale screening, testing, tracing and a medical management programme on Monday.

Around 10 000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms.

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.

Mkhize said those people who might have mild symptoms in poorer areas may not seek assistance immediately and this posed a risk. Now officials will seek people to test rather than wait for them to present themselves at a clinic for testing.

“Our testing criteria is reactive and restrictive. This means we don’t have a true picture. Although we are talking about 45 000 tests, this is too low, given the size of the population.

“We need to engage all community leaders. Spread the message of stay at home and the importance of hygiene must be made more emphatically,” the Minister said.

He said that next month the flu season will start which meant more people will flood the hospitals and clinics.

Number of COVID-19 cases increase

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 1380, an increase of 27 cases from Tuesday’s announcement.

The Minister said 44 202 people have been tested, largely in private laboratories and just over 6000 have been performed in at public facilities.

He ascribed this reduction in the rate of increase to the closing of borders, enforcing a quarantine on inbound travellers and the lockdown has slowed internal transmission by reducing the spread during large gatherings and overcrowded transport routes, eg trains, buses and taxis.

Stay at home

The Minister said the message by President Cyril Ramaphosa for people to stay at home was still very important, as was the message of washing hands and ensuring good hygiene.

Also, those who are on chronic medication must ensure they take their medicine.

“This disease affects us all, black, white, rich or poor. We need to be united as a nation and focused when addressing this issue. Not that we should panic, but we must not be complacent.

“Look at China and South Korea, and the US. It is the conduct of the community that matters. Take this seriously. Don’t panic. Go out for essentials only.”

Mkhize said the actions of each person counted. –