SA amends criteria for Covid-19 testing
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Cape Town - In response to the global shortages of test kits for coronavirus, the Health Department has amended the criteria for testing to ensure there was targeted screening and testing.
This takes place as the department is evaluating the rapid tests for quality to conduct surveillance to assess how many people have the virus.
This was revealed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize when he responded in writing to parliamentary questions from DA MP Haseena Ismail who asked about steps taken to test the presence of the virus in the wake of the global shortage of test kits.
She also wanted to know the steps taken to reduce the turnaround time of four to five days for the release of the results.
In his written response, Mkhize said there was a global need for test kits with countries in the north taking up the majority of the kits that were available due to a large number of their patients, resulting in shortages.
“The department has worked with the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) to increase the number of tests that are available in South Africa.
“The minister has engaged with some manufacturers of test kits to encourage them to increase the number of test kits that they supply to South Africa,” he said.
“A challenge is the limited number of flights from countries that manufacture the test kits add to the challenges being experienced.”
Mkhize also said the criteria for testing has been amended due to the global shortage of Covid-19 test kits.
“The department has prioritised the testing of patients in hospitals with respiratory conditions as well as people who had contact with a known positive patient as well as health-care workers.”
Responding to another question from EFF MP Naledi Chirwa, Mkhize said rapid tests were being considered.
He further added that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) was in a process of evaluating the rapid tests for
quality and that once they were registered they would be used for surveillance to assess how many people have antibodies.
“As soon as serological (antibodies) tests are registered by the SAHPRA, these will be used for population-level surveillance to get prevalence rates.”
He also said mass testing has been halted as the target that was set for 14million people screened through community screening has been achieved and the move was now to targeted screening and testing.
Mkhize highlighted there were steps taken to reduce the turnaround time of four to five days for the release of results for patients under investigation and in-hospital admissions to 48 hours.
Responding to questions on screening and tests in each municipality since June 1, Mkhize said 20170839 screenings were conducted.
The number of tests as of June 2 across all nine provinces in each municipality stood at 785979.
He also said 2084 health professionals had tested positive by June 1.
“The number of health professionals as of June 1 that recovered is 808. The number of health professionals as of June 1 that died from Covid-19 is 18,” Mkhize added.