Picture: David J Phillip/AP
Picture: David J Phillip/AP

Courier firm replaced by NHLS over test kit specimens dumped in Eastern Cape

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jul 3, 2020

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Cape Town – A courier company has paid the price for hundreds of Covid-19 test kit specimens being found next to the N2 at Mdantsane near East London, Eastern Cape. 

Described by the national Department of Health as an "intentional criminal act", the kits were discovered by a jogger last week, who didn't touch them and opened them with his running shoes. The tests were on their way from surrounding hospitals to a laboratory in Port Elizabeth.

After a preliminary investigation was conducted, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) said in a statement the actions of the company and its staff were negligent and a potential risk to human life.

What made matters worse is that the testing kits, which are imported from overseas, are in short supply. The Eastern Cape has the third-highest number of Covid-19 cases, with 30 603, and its death toll of 451 is surpassed only by the Western Cape.

Slamming the violation of patients' rights, NHLS Dr Kamy Chetty said: “It potentially places the lives of those patients and their families at risk, as well as members of the public who may have come into contact with any positive specimens.

“At a time when our country is dealing with a state of disaster due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these actions are reprehensible and the NHLS has taken swift action to terminate the services of the company.”

Two other courier companies have taken over the routes and were in operation from yesterday.

NHLS Eastern Cape regional manager Tabita Makula said: “We are grateful to our other courier suppliers for stepping into the gap and assisting us at short notice. 

"Their efforts to extend their service so quickly will ensure that specimen transportation will continue with as little disruption as possible.”

The national Department of Health said after the test kits were discovered: "What is worrisome is that this was not just medical waste but specimens.

"These specimens have identity numbers and contact details of individuals. The courier company that was contracted must be traced and provide answers as to what happened to get to the bottom of this situation.

"In our view, this is an intentional criminal act which must be condemned strongly. It is a violation of people's rights and dignity when the test kits containing their personal information are found next to the road. 

"We are hopeful that an investigation will be done and those found responsible for this be held accountable." 


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