Western Cape urged to ’stop stupid, dangerous Covid-19 testing strategy’ as infections soar
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Cape Town – With the Western Cape currently the Covid-19 epicentre in the country, Good party secretary-general Brett Herron, a member of the Western Cape legislature, wants the province to ’’stop this stupid, dangerous strategy of not testing people under the age of 45 who don’t present symptoms’’.
’’It doesn’t help us in containing this transmission. It sounds like Trump, the more people you test, the more positive cases you get, so you don’t test. We need to know how many people are infected in our province and the people who are infected need to know they are infected.’’
The Western Cape Health Department’s Mark van der Heever said last month: “Testing is to ensure we detect confirmed cases in the most vulnerable and to act quickly. If (we are) testing everyone, we will end up with backlogs and not get to protect those vulnerable groups.”
Health officials only test for Covid-19 in people in the province who are symptomatic and 45 years and older; all persons who are symptomatic with co-morbidities; all persons who are symptomatic and in need of hospitalisation, healthcare workers and people living in congregate settings.
Herron’s response to IOL on Tuesday over the fears of creating a testing bottleneck was: ’’So they can hide the positive rate by suppressing the number of tests, but they can’t deny the pressure and strain on hospitals.
’’I heard Dr Cloete, the head of Health, on Friday afternoon on the radio say, ’if you happen to be injured this weekend or have any trauma, there is no space in critical care for you’. For that reason alone, the numbers are not accurate.
’’If they are suppressing the numbers so they can keep the economy open, if their focus is solely on the economy, they are actually not helping the economy because more and more people are getting sick.’’
President Cyril Ramaphosa and acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi are considering enforcing stricter lockdown restrictions in the Western Cape, but Premier Alan Winde's view is that with the province approaching its peak of infections, restrictions need to strike the right balance, with the growing unemployment rate being a major concern.
Winde said the current adjusted Alert level 3 restrictions enable the province to manage the pandemic during times of pressure while providing relief to the economy. The province's current seven-day moving average is 108 deaths per day.
According to its Covid-19 Dashboard, the Western Cape reported 40 252 active cases, 408 685 confirmed cases and 353 145 recoveries as at 1pm yesterday.
Herron said: ’’I think the situation is worse than the stats show us because I know in the public space sector and even in the private sector there is a lot of testing that’s not being done. A lot of people who have got symptoms have reached out to me after being told at testing sites they are not testing under the age of 45.
’’In my mother’s case, who is 83, my father is currently in hospital on oxygen and they live together alone and even her doctor said we won’t test you until you are symptomatic.
’’I intervened and said my mother is 83 and living alone and if she becomes symptomatic, she won’t be able to get to a testing centre, so please test her. So they did test her and she was Covid-positive.
’’So they are not testing an 83-year-old, they are not testing under 45s unless you are crazy ill. So many people are walking around not even knowing they are Covid-positive. I think it is a dangerous strategy; the numbers are bad but the numbers are not the real numbers because people aren’t being tested.
’’Something brings every person to a testing centre to be tested, either they are not feeling well or they were exposed to someone who has been detected with Covid. So we need to increase the number of tests and not adopt this attitude that people who are mildly symptomatic or under the age of 45 do not need to be tested.
’’The people who are infected need to know they are positive, so they can isolate and inform the people they have possibly come into contact with. This virus is transmitted by human beings interacting with each other. If you don’ know you have Covid and continue to live your life as if you don’t, then you are part of the transmission.’’
Herron believes the restriction of movement is a quick fix when considering stricter lockdown regulations in the Western Cape.
’’We saw in Gauteng when there was a restriction of movement in and out of Gauteng, their numbers fell quite rapidly. So I understand and have a lot of sympathy for the industries that have been affected by lockdown, especially in the hospitality sector, restaurants, guest houses and so on.
’’But if scientists said we need to intervene, to me the obvious starting point would be to cut down on interprovincial travel because you have different provinces at different stages of this third wave and it makes sense to stay in your province and not travel in and out unless it’s absolutely necessary.’’