Gauteng covid-19 results lag by up to 8 days

There is a time lag of four to eight days in the reporting of Covid-19 test results in Gauteng because of delays in obtaining test kits and reagents.

This was disclosed today by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in response to my questions at a virtual meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee. According to Masuku, this time lag is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a general problem experienced internationally.

According to a presentation given by the Gauteng Health Department, the time taken for Covid-19 test results in Gauteng ranges from 48 hours and in some instances up to 11 days. They say they have “engaged the National Department of Health, NHLS and private laboratories to find ways in which the process can be bettered to ensure we are able to mitigate the risk of transmission.”

The Department concedes that “the delay in getting the results will inevitable have some effect on reducing transmission. To try mitigating against this all People Under Investigation (PUI) are educated to self – isolate or are put in quarantine if required whilst awaiting the results … plans are being put into place to try source more test kits as Gauteng ramps up its effort to test even more people.”

I am concerned about these delays and that the Department says that the “extent of the backlog is not fully quantified due to the various categories of testing.” According to reports, there is a test backlog of 15 000 in Johannesburg.

The latest available figures are 166 394 tests conducted in total in Gauteng as at 20 May, and 6121 tests were conducted on 19 May. The important number, however, is test results rather than tests conducted, and MEC Masuku has undertaken to make this distinction in future reporting.

I hope that testing delays can be resolved as speedy test results are vital in identifying and limiting hotspots through contact tracing and quarantine. Meanwhile, priorities should be set for key sectors to get their tests as soon as possible, particularly staff and patients at hospitals, and areas where there is high person-to-person contact.

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