Coronavirus tracking teams beefed up despite testing kits shortage
The number of confirmed cases in the country increased to 240 as the Western Cape reached 74 infections yesterday. The Eastern Cape also confirmed its first case on Saturday.
As the province prepares and puts in place measures to try to limit the spread of the virus, the lack of sufficient test kits, masks and protective clothing continues to be a problem.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country had capacity to conduct only 5000 tests a day, but the hope was to increase this figure to 30000 tests per day in a month’s time.
The African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said by tomorrow, 60000 test kits will be distributed to 43 African countries.
Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said while the province was battling the problem of capacity only people who met the criteria would be tested.
“Right now, the challenge is getting enough test kits as well as the supply of masks and protective clothing because the very people supplying us also have a high demand for these items; that is why if people are not symptomatic (they) will not be tested if they don’t meet the criteria,” she said.
This, however, creates challenges in the light of growing local transmission, with people who might not have travelled overseas but had unknowingly come into contact with someone who tested positive.
In response to this, the provincial department said it was capacitating its tracking units to monitor these events and track down anyone who might have been exposed.
“We have tracking teams that work from 7am to 10pm and all that data is being kept in spreadsheets where we can track how many people are being reached after they come into contact with someone who tests positive.
“We get a briefing on those that have been found and how many of them are showing symptoms. And throughout the province’s five rural districts and the metro, we have teams made up of health-care workers, clinicians and community workers to reach everyone, even those without phones and need to be tracked down at home.
“Once a person tests positive, the priority is to get the list of people they have been in contact with, from immediate contacts such as family to distant contacts like people you may have shared an Uber with.”
The closure of two wine farms in the Cape Winelands after a Dutch tourist tested positive when a tour group he was on visited a number of estates, as well as three staff members from two universities who were diagnosed with the virus, showed how vital the tracking teams are in tracking down all those who might have come into contact with positive individuals.
The University of the Western Cape’s acting rector, Professor Vivienne Lawack, said they were tracking all those who had come into contact with the staff member who had tested positive.