The current backlog of Covid-19 tests in Gauteng is 35 000 and results can take as long as 5 to 11 days for lesser priority cases.
This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions yesterday at a virtual sitting of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).
According to Masuku 173 450 tests were done from 1 May to 14 June this year, of which the results of 138 450 had been received.
The time taken for results varies from 48 hours for high priority hospital cases and as long as 5 to 11 days for community screening.
Masuku said that there are four categories of tests in order of priority as follows:
- Patients and health care workers in hospitals;
- People with high risk, including those in contact with a known Covid-19 case, and those in care homes, including mental health patients;
- Frontline staff including teachers, traffic officers and policemen;
- Surveillance testing in asymptomatic people which would only be done when antibody tests become available.
Masuku said that he expected the backlog in Gauteng tests to be cleared in a week or two after the backlogs in Western Cape and Eastern Cape have been resolved. He undertook that all swabs that had been collected would be tested.
I am greatly concerned by this huge backlog of tests which is 12 000 higher than the 23 000 backlog reported last week. The long delays undermine the test, trace and isolate strategy in hot spot areas that is so critical in Gauteng as infections climb exponentially.
It is very disappointing that the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) has failed to expand capacity despite claiming earlier that they could do 36 000 tests a day. I hope that testing is sped up in future, including greater use of private and university laboratories.