No more Covid-19 tests for ‘healthy’ Capetonians

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No more Covid-19 tests for ‘healthy’ Capetonians

Lack of testing kits forced the move, which will narrow the focus on those at highest risk of dying, says premier

Sipokazi Fokazi
The Western Cape government is tightening its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.
Cutting back The Western Cape government is tightening its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.
Image: Alon Skuy

If you are younger than 55, don’t have a chronic illness and live in Cape Town, then you’re not going to be tested for Covid-19 – even if you develop symptoms.

This comes as the Western Cape government tightens its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.

Premier Alan Winde said a decision had to be made after the backlog of tests in the public sector grew to about 27,000 for the Western Cape alone. He said the move was a bid to save lives.

Currently the waiting list for tests around the country stood at about 100,000, with people waiting seven to 12 days for their results.

“The Western Cape government has taken the important decision to test only those who are at highest risk and most vulnerable in the Cape Town metropolitan area,” he said.

Those in the private sector and outside the Cape metro would not fall into this category and would still be tested.

Testing only the most vulnerable would allow the province to get test results back as quickly as possible “so that we can ensure speedy interventions to save lives”.

Referring to the backlog, Winde said: “This means that someone who is seriously ill in hospital, or a health worker, or someone who we know is at high risk of dying from  -19, may have to wait seven and 12 days for a result. This is simply not an option.

“Among those who will be prioritised include those with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, HIV and tuberculosis.”

The province had called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize to address this backlog – “and I am appreciative of efforts that they are taking to do so”.

The lack of test kits emanates from a global shortage, which has resulted in SA receiving a limited supply.

The decision to test only the most vulnerable could be temporary, Winde added, if extra testing capacity is made available.

The decision “is the only remaining solution” for now to ensure early detection of Covid-19 in those at highest risk of dying.

Preserving test kits would also ensure greater protection for healthcare workers, who are most at risk.

“Indeed, if we can get a test back within 24 to 48 hours, we can ensure early treatment and ... hospitalise those people who we know will deteriorate rapidly as the infection progresses,” said Winde. “For some of our residents it might be the difference between living and dying.”

You are eligible for testing:

  • If you are over 55 and have Covid-19 symptoms;
  • If you are younger than 55 and have any cancer, diabetes, hypertension, HIV (with poor adherence to antiretrovirals) or chronic lung disease (including TB and asthma);
  • If you are a healthcare worker and have Covid-19 symptoms; and
  • If you live in a care or old-age home and have Covid-19 symptoms.

Those with Covid-19 symptoms who don’t fulfil these criteria should, however, isolate for 14 days to prevent the virus from spreading to others.

Winde said local and international data showed that 90% of people infected with Covid-19 would not require admission to hospital, and 2% of confirmed cases had died.

Of those who died, 96% had underlying health conditions and were older than 55.  

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