SA has screened 900 000, tested 108 000 for Covid-19, but more must be done

Worldometers Covid-19 dashboard as an indicator. 

As of Saturday evening, South Africa placed in the top 40 of countries in terms of numbers of tests done, out of roughly 180 countries around the world who have reported cases so far. 

“Other countries have had many more days, sort of well-to-do countries. But we want to ramp up our testing to a high level, it’s in our best interest to do so. Our capability is quite well established, but the process has to be accelerated,” he said.

Dr Kamy Chetty, chief executive of the National Health Laboratory Service, said that this week testing cartridges from Cepheid in the US had finally arrived and had been validated.

These kits are used in conjunction with GeneXpert machines, some of which have been installed in mobile vans, and can deliver a result in under 45 minutes.

cepheid testing kit covid19

The Xpert Xpress testing kit made by Cepheid in the US can, when used in conjunction with its GeneXpert machine, test for Covid-19 in less than 45 minutes. The kits are a crucial part of plans to increase testing numbers in the country. 

“We have received about 10 000 of those kits and we are one of very few countries to have received those kits,” Chetty said.

Chetty said the NHLS hoped to get enough of the Cepheid tests to use 10 000 a day, but that the company had indicated production levels would not yet be able to meet that demand.

The NHLS expected delivery of a further 20 000 of the kits next week.

“We are also using the Cobas 6800 and 8800 testing machines [made by Roche in Switzerland]. We have been hoping to get more of those kits because the machines are fully automated, but the production of those kits is limited,” Chetty said.

“So far, we have been able to meet the demand for the number of tests we have been given to do each day, but we are hoping to ramp up the numbers,” she concluded.

Chetty said that 52 of 60 new mobile screening and testing vans had so far been rolled out. Chetty previously told News24 around 20 of the vans would be fitted with the GeneXpert machines, but the majority of them would be outfitted with screening equipment, that would allow workers to gather samples to be tested at laboratories. 

ALSO READ: Coronavirus: Fear that US exports clampdown could hamper SA’s effort to ramp up testing

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