Health Department makes strides in Eastern Cape Covid-19 testing backlog but 'challenges' remain

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Jun 7, 2020

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Durban - A ministerial visit to the Eastern Cape to see how the province is tackling the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed that while the province has reduced testing backlog, it still has a way to go before clearing it.

This weekend, the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize visited the Eastern Cape which has the same number of Covid-19 infections as Gauteng but has recorded the second-highest mortality numbers.

The province's proximity and interconnectedness with the Western Cape make it especially vulnerable, the Department of Health said.

In addition, there is an increase in infection rate amongst health care workers both in the public and private sectors. 

As at June 6, the Eastern Cape had recorded 258 Covid-19 positive and 14 Covid-19 related deaths.

According to the Health Department, in Port Elizabeth the backlog has been reduced from 13 000 to 5106, by Monday it should be around 4 000 then by next week completely cleared. 

The department said that the Heat lysis extraction of RNA has been a key innovation to increase turnover. Another machine is being sent to Port Elizabeth.

The Mthatha backlog was currently at 8 000 and that was expected that to be cleared in the next few weeks as well.

"East London is still a challenge because there is no resident pathologist. The Gene- Xpert does not require a pathologist to interpret and so that is what is being used in EL however there has been a shortage of kits," the department said in a statement.

It said that this week the central office will be increasing the number of kits being sent to East Londo while the National Health Laboratory Service was also looking into sending other testing modalities that don’t require pathologists.

"There will be intervention to be more targeted in the testing approach Interprovincial issues. There are many essential seasonal workers who travel to the Western Cape and back between the provinces. Both the provinces have been proactive in conducting roadside screenings. The Western Cape now has a co-ordinated programme of screening and assessing seasonal travellers before they leave to go home to EC".

In addition to ramping out testing, 20 members of the Cuban Brigade were sent to bolster the response, particularly community-based response 840 additional nurses have been employed. 

The Minister of Health will be returning to the Eastern Cape later this week whilst the Deputy Minister will go to the Western Cape to continue Ministerial oversight there.


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