Engineers at SA's North West University develop kit to help schools screen for Covid-19
Johannesburg - Engineers at South Africa's North West University have developed a testing kit they hope will help resolve the congestion likely to occur during screening for Covid-19 when schools resume classes next month, the institution said on Thursday.
South African schools and universities have been closed since mid-March in an effort to avoid the spread of the coronavirus among students and staff. On Tuesday the department of education said all public school teachers, as well as grade 7 pupils who are set to progress to high school in 2021 and grade 12 learners due to write their final school exams later this year, would be required to return to class on June 1.
In a statement, North West University said hundreds of learners would enter the gates of their particular schools every day, causing huge congestion with regard to health screenings.
The mandatory daily screening and listing of all people entering school premises would generate records that needed to be documented, stored centrally and, when required, shared with or reported to health authorities, but very few schools had adequate capacity for this, the university added.
It said its engineers led by Professor Leenta Grobler, a specialist in health-related engineering innovations, had come up with a solution involving the digitalisation of the screening and data-capturing process.
They had developed a screening and data-recording kit which would allow every person authorised to enter a particular property to be issued with an identification token, while all points of entry would be equipped with a recording station housing a database, a token reader, a digital thermometer and a simple user interface that employed an Android-operated cell phone.
“This kit will mean significant time savings for the education and work sectors, and may have a radical impact on lockdown screening protocols," Grobler said.
"Data capturing at Covid-19 health screening points will be done using QR codes as identification tokens and commercial off-the-shelf infrared digital thermometers, with the data being gathered by a standard entry-level smart cell phone.”
Grobler said her team planned to pilot the system at local Potchefstroom-based schools during the first week after schools re-opened.
"We would then prefer to license the solution to a suitable partner for commercialisation and roll-out," she added.
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa