No life in danger from testing backlog: Mkhize

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No life in danger from testing backlog: Mkhize

Results backlog of about 90,000 doesn’t affect virus’s spread. Behavioural change is what’s needed to contain it

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The result of a Covid-19 test doesn't change clinical management. It supplements a doctor's analysis of a patient based on symptoms, says health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Test of time The result of a Covid-19 test doesn't change clinical management. It supplements a doctor's analysis of a patient based on symptoms, says health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

With fears mounting over a Covid-19 test result backlog, national health minister Zweli Mkhize has assured the country that “no life is compromised by the backlog”.

He said a positive result does not change a doctor’s clinical management of someone who has the symptoms.

There is “one message and one formula” when it comes to hotspots, he said: a strong intersectoral response and behavioural change of every member of society to stop the virus from overwhelming our health facilities.

Every member of society has to help stop the spread.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize

Speaking at a briefing before a tour of Sonstraal Hospital in Paarl in the Western Cape on Tuesday, he said hitches in testing capacity were inevitable as “the whole world is looking for the test kits” and “we need to accept that we are not manufacturing our own”.

However, by refocusing on targeted testing and clinical management of confirmed positive and suspect cases, the numbers could be brought down drastically, he said.

“Clinical management means that the doctor looking after the patient makes a call” on how to care for them and then the test is “supplementary support for the doctor”.

Mkhize said it was a clear “formula” to be repeated across the country: those who are positive are isolated, those who are very sick are managed in a clinical setting and all other members of society need to wear masks, practise social distancing, and wash and sanitise their hands.

“We shouldn’t fear the virus. It is our own levels of contact that are going to determine how well we do in this campaign,” he said. “Where we see this infection is raging in an area, we call for an intervention to deal with the numbers until we can stabilise it. We will never get rid of it completely. We must keep numbers low so centres aren’t overwhelmed.”

Any patient who has the symptoms is “assumed to be infectious and is managed accordingly” in a clinical setting, while those who have no or mild symptoms, but are suspected cases, should be quarantined at home for 14 days.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize.
man with a plan Health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Image: TimesLIVE

“Anyone waiting for results should not be compromised. We are going all out to make sure we source as many kits as possible. The backlog is temporary and we will solve it, and we mustn’t think it won’t arise in the future. But no life will be compromised.”

Mkhize said more than 700,000 tests had been performed and that even with a backlog of about 90,000, it “does not affect epidemiological analyses” of the spread of the virus.

An average of 20,000 tests are being done a day, and specimens are moved between public and private facilities, depending on where the backlogs are.

On the Western Cape carrying more than 23,000 of the approximately 35,800 cases nationally, Mkhize said he was “comfortable enough work is being done in the Western Cape” to deal with the crisis.