‘I just pray that I don’t have Covid-19’: five-week wait for some test results

Some people in the Eastern Cape have waited more than a month for their Covid-19 test results, with some even returning to work without knowing their status.

Dr Siva Pillay says that because testing was reduced, the turnaround time is now two to three days for results.
Image: FILE

This has raised concerns about whether they are in good enough health to be around others, as they could infect them.

Mandlenkosi Witness Windvoel, a care worker at the  Burgersdorp Child and Youth Care Centre, tested on June 29 but now, more than five weeks later, still has not received his results. He said after showing symptoms for the virus he tested and was sent home to isolate. After being in isolation for 14 days he was told to return to work.

Since then there have been 45 positive Covid-19 cases at the centre. He said other people at the centre were also still waiting for their results.

“I’m not the only one who didn’t get results. Three people at work are still waiting but I doubt that the results would help now because we are already back at work.”

Windvoel said he still found himself short of breath at times.

“I just pray that I don’t have Covid-19. This has left us all confused.”

Another person, who asked that DispatchLIVE not use his name, said he tested on June 30 at a private health-care centre in East London.

He also has not yet received his results.

“The nurses who tested me told me they would send results but they never did. I just isolated myself, not knowing whether I was positive or not. I still don’t even know if I infected anyone,” he said.

A detailed enquiry was sent to Eastern Cape health department communications director Siyanda Manana, but he did not respond or take calls on his cellphone.

Recoveries are measured by how many people do not return to hospitals, clinics and testing centres where they originally tested after a given period. All tests, whether they are positive or negative, are loaded on to the government database.

Dr Siva Pillay, an adviser at the Sarah Baartman district and Nelson Mandela Bay joint operations centres, confirmed that the backlog in Covid-19 tests escalated in July, when  people had to wait an average of 10-12 days to get their results.

Pillay said there were delays in the laboratories “because the politicians didn’t make the testing to be equivalent to the tests we can do [in a day]”.

“The capacity of the National Health Laboratory Service is about 2,500 tests a day, and politicians promised the people that we will do 5,000 tests a day. That caused the backlog.

“The moment we did that, we had a huge backlog and that made things worse. The new policy says that we don’t do community testing any more and only people who are symptomatic will be tested. But that’s also bad because we know that 20% of people have no symptoms but they are Covid-19 positive.”

He said these people could be still spreading the virus but “we can’t help them now because we don’t have the ability to do many tests”.

According to Pillay, the turnaround time to get results is now two to three days.

“At the present moment, we’ve convinced the politicians to reduce the number of tests done in a day to 2,500. Now we are only testing those who are sick and hospital front-line workers. We don’t have problems now because we are testing according to our capacity.”

DispatchLIVE

BY MFUNDO PILISO

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