Test backlogs hamper fight against Covid-19 in Gauteng

Issued by Jack Bloom – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC
31 May 2020 in Press Statements

I am hugely concerned by the 24 076 Covid-19 tests in Gauteng which have not been processed as this severely hampers efforts to speedily identify and curb emerging hotspots in the province.

This was the latest reported figure given by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize for 25 May, so it is likely even higher now.

As the average positivity rate has been a bit below 2% this means that more than 400 Covid-19 infected people have not been diagnosed in Gauteng because of the test backlog. Many of them are probably asymptomatic but could still pass on the infection.

The Gauteng infection figures have leapt in the past seven days from 764 active cases on 23 May to 1707 active cases on 30 May – this is an increase of 943 cases, which is an average increase of 135 cases per day.

Another worrying sign is that hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients have more than tripled in this time period from 73 to 332 patients. Gauteng has done well to keep the mortality rate at 1% with 31 deaths to date, but this may increase sharply with the new rush of hospital admittances.

The highest number of new infections between 17 and 26 May has been in Carletonville with 23 cases, followed by the Mayfair/Crosby/Jan Hofmeyr/Amalgam/ Paarlshoop area in Johannesburg with 22 cases and Ivory Park with 9 infections. Region F in Johannesburg, which includes the inner city and eastern and southern suburbs, now has 112 active cases, and Region D, which includes Soweto, has 96 active cases.

The real number of active Covid-19 cases for Gauteng is probably closer to 8 000 bearing in mind the test backlogs and the rule of thumb that there are at least three other cases for each identified case.

I have had many reports of test results that take 10 days or longer, which completely undermines the purpose of mass testing.

Gauteng needs to do about 10 000 tests a day but is presently getting the results for fewer than 5 000 tests a day.

I hope that efforts to resolve the testing backlog succeed soon as this is a fast-evolving epidemic which needs prompt interventions to curb cluster infections in particular areas.