The Western Cape’s Covid-19 testing backlog has decreased after setting new parameters that limit who gets tested.
Once it has caught up with all its testing, the province might be able to expand who gets tested again.
The backlog has dropped significantly since it limited tests to people over the age of 55, those with Covid-19 symptoms and healthcare workers.
The province’s head of health, Dr Keith Cloete, said last week’s backlog of about 28,000 tests had dropped to about 3,000 by Wednesday.
The lower number of tests also means people get their test results back faster.
At the peak of the backlog, they had to wait up to two weeks for results.
This week, some have received theirs within 24 hours.
Cloete said this in a briefing to a special committee on the virus in the Western Cape legislature.
He added he was often asked why the Western Cape had shot ahead of other provinces so quickly regarding the number of confirmed cases.
Cloete said they had found in the early days of Covid-19 in South Africa, testing was limited to people who had a history of overseas travel.
This continued well into the second week of April, but by that time, community transmission had been established.
Testing criteria had to allow for local community transmission then.
Shoprite in Bothasig, Cape Town, alone had 60 out of 100 people infected.
“The workers came from the more underprivileged areas on the Cape Flats and community transmission established itself at the time that the testing criteria was focusing on overseas travel.”
Cloete said isolation and quarantine protocols have also changed significantly, adding initially an entire aircraft would be quarantined, then it was changed to people within a certain distance of the Covid-19 person.
He added the Western Cape’s Covid-19 spike happened earlier than predicted, saying as a result, the province had gone all out in providing extra beds and field hospitals, including possibly procuring the use of a second facility at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
The province will be helped by Cuban and SA Military Health Services doctors.
It is also being assisted by nurses from Gauteng, while agency nurses from KwaZulu-Natal will assist at the CTICC field hospital.
Cloete said isolation and quarantine was initially a “choice” issue, but following reports of people who were positive “walking around”, he had already signed five affidavits to force people to isolate.