Western Cape’s Covid-19 testing backlog hits 18 000, warns Winde

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has raised serious concerns about the escalating backlog of Covid-19 testing, not just in his province, but countrywide.

Winde on Monday said that the backlog in the Western Cape has now grown to around 18 000 tests and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to address the issue urgently.

Despite the Western Cape and Cape Town being seen as epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, the peak of the virus is only expected around July and August.

The province is home to almost 15 400 of SA’s more than 23 600 confirmed Covid-19 cases. Cape Town’s metro accounts for more than 13 000 cases, however around half are active cases and the balance recoveries.

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According to latest statistics released by Mkhize on Monday night, the Western Cape now accounts for 330 of SA’s 481 coronavirus-linked deaths. The country had a record 52 deaths over a 24-hour period, with 49 of these in the Western Cape. Mkhize’s figures are different to those of Winde, who reported 318 virus-linked deaths in his province as at 1pm on Monday.

“A total of 124 079 tests have been completed in the Western Cape – representing a 400% increase in the number of tests conducted in the province since 25 April. This increase in testing in the Western Cape and in other provinces has resulted in a considerable backlog in the processing of these tests and in the release of their results by the National Health Laboratory Services [NHLS],” the premier noted in a statement.

Source: National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)/ Department of Health

Winde said the NHLS is a national entity, but that the Western Cape has previously written to both Ramaphosa and Mkhize regarding the backlogs. He added that the backlogs create considerable delays in people receiving their test results.

“During his recent visit to the Western Cape, Minister Mkhize indicated that the delays were due to shortages of reagents and test kits which are being experienced world-wide. The backlog in the Western Cape has now grown to approximately 18 000 tests,” he said.

“We once again call on both the president and Minister Mkhize to move as quickly as possible to ensure that the NHLS is provided with the resources it so urgently requires and that testing across the country can continue unhindered.”

Winde pointed out that in the absence of a rapid-test solution, priority is being given to testing healthcare workers, those in hospital and those at high risk including the elderly and people with underlying conditions. This is in order “to ensure the most efficient way of managing the curve” of the disease, which he noted is now in the “community transmission” phase.

Ramaphosa is expected to visit the Western Cape and meet Winde sometime over the next week regarding the Covid-19 situation. the president’s planned tour of the province two weeks ago was postponed after Winde had to go into self-quarantine, following the premier coming into close contact with a cameraman with Covid-19, who later died from the virus.

Read: Western Cape premier goes into precautionary self-quarantine

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