Covid-19 testing ramped up in Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape government has ramped up Covid-19 testing in the province to quickly identify people who may be infected — and aims to reach a target of 10,000 over the next 15 days.

Almost 400 tests were conducted in the province — home to 6.7-million  people —  over the past three days.

The provincial government had only conducted 77 tests at the weekend, but this had shot up to 463 by midday yesterday, with its target to test  10,000 people before the end of the 21-day lockdown.

“We are trying our best, but we want to expand even further,” health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said.

“We will work around the clock in the hope of achieving this target.

“I am not sure if we will succeed, but we will chase that figure.”

The Free State, which has a population of about 2.8-million people, had tested 256 people by Monday.

Limpopo, which is similar in population size to the Eastern Cape with 5.9-million people, had tested 178, while Mpumalanga  — with a population of 4.5-million — had tested 191 people.

Of the 463 tests in the Eastern Cape, only 15 cases have come back positive.

Health department spokesperson Siyanda Manana said the province was not leaving anything to chance any more.

“We are trying our best, but we want to expand even further,” health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said.

“We are casting the net as wide as possible,” he said.

“Since the weekend, we have conducted hundreds of tests.”

Overall, 41,072 people have been tested in SA, with about 3.3% of them turning out to be positive.

Gomba said if someone tested positive for Covid-19 in a  small village,  the entire community would be tested.

“We are no longer confining it to the testing guidelines.

“We will test everyone,” she said.

Gomba said while health officials complained about being overworked, the department had no choice but to soldier on.

“We can’t rest. We must fight on.

“We have to stop this virus from spreading anywhere else in the province.”

She said officials had started travelling to some of the small towns where people had tested positive to hand out masks and gloves.

They included Aberdeen, where one person tested positive, and Willowvale, also with one.

“We are waiting for more masks and gloves. Once they arrive, we hope to dish these out to entire communities,” Gomba said.

She warned that the province might have a higher rate of infection now as people would have returned to the Eastern Cape before the lockdown.

“One man who works in Gauteng called us, saying that he had returned to the province even though he had tested positive.

“We suspect even more people have done this.”

“We are encouraging people to come forward to say they are positive but came back home.

“This is OK, we just need to monitor them.”

Gomba said she hoped to bring more staff on board to battle the pandemic in the next few days.

“Our second-biggest goal is to expand our human resources during this time to spread the message and screen people.”

The provincial government announced last month that it would hire unemployed nurses on year-long contracts in an effort  to bolster its workforce.

The nurses were selected from the provincial unemployment database.

“Some of them have already started this training. They will be a great asset,” Gomba said.

Several Nelson Mandela Bay doctors, who all declined to be named, applauded the province’s testing figures.

One of the doctors said the number of tests had increased due to the tracing of people who had been in contact with those who had tested positive for Covid-19.

“As more people come back with positive results, even more people will be tested,” he said.

A second doctor said the provincial government was clearly working hard to stop the spread of the virus.

“They are tracing people who have been in contact with the confirmed cases, with these people then forced into self-isolation at home.

“The [number of people tested] is remarkable considering that only a dozen have tested positive for the virus so far.”



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