South Africa is running out of coronavirus testing kits: Mkhize

 ·26 May 2020

South Africa has reported a marked decline in coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours because of a global shortage in testing kits, says health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Presenting to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday (26 May), Mkhize said that in the last 24 hours around 12,000 tests have been conducted. However, he noted that in each of the two days prior, more than 20,000 tests were conducted.

“The decline here is occasioned by the world shortage of supply (of testing kits). We are now running into difficulties with various suppliers not being able to meet our demands.

“The whole world is trembling to get laboratory kits and so we are starting to get squeezed now.”

Mkhize said that it would lead to a lot of backlogs – some of which is already being seen in the country. He added that the government would now have to adapt its targeted testing strategy and look at clinical judgements as it deals with more cases.

“I think we need society to understand that this is now becoming a constraint. It’s not so much our capacity but rather whether global suppliers respond to our requests. Everybody in the world is looking for exactly the same thing.”

Mkhize said that a cumulative total of 596,777 tests have been conducted by 24 May. Of the total number of cases, 12,922 new tests were conducted in the last 24 hours.

Gauteng has performed the highest number of new tests (37.2%) with a positivity rate of 2.4% whereas the Western Cape has performed 27.9% of new tests in the last 25 hours, with a positivity rate of 18.4%.

Testing backlogs

Western Cape premier Alan Winde says that the increase in testing in the province 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.

“The NHLS is a national entity, and the Western Cape has previously written to both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize regarding the backlogs which are creating considerable delays in people receiving their test results back,” he said.

“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.”

Winde said that backlog in the Western Cape has now grown to approximately 18,000 tests.

“In the absence of a rapid-test solution, the decision is to prioritise healthcare workers, those in hospital and those at high risk including the elderly and those with underlying conditions in order to ensure the most efficient way of managing the curve of the disease in this phase of community transmission,” 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.”

Read: South Africa’s lockdown levels are now based on 2 criteria: Dlamini-Zuma

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