In an effort to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, Gauteng – the province with the most infections – has set itself the target of testing a third of its population by June.
Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku told City Press on Tuesday that 5 million people would be tested by the end of June.
Masuku was at the Johannesburg Expo Centre at Nasrec overseeing its state of readiness to accommodate Covid-19 patients if the designated health facilities in the province were overwhelmed.
“I am hoping that we can get to 5 million tests. Not just by the end of the lockdown, but by the end of June we should have covered at least 5 million people,” said Masuku.
“Our screenings currently are more than 80 000 and we are hoping to get to more than 500 000 by next week. The tests have been around 2 000 and we are glad to say the test results which we have received have been negative.”
The province has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases, with more than 900 reported by the department of health on Tuesday afternoon.
Masuku said it was imperative to increase the number of screenings conducted.
“It is not enough. We need to increase our number of tests, particularly for those who are at high risk and those who have been in contact [with Covid-19 positive people],” Masuku said.
On Monday evening Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of South Africa’s Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, praised the “proactive approach to fighting community transmissions”.
He said this had given South Africa the edge for now in the war against the pandemic.
Masuku said the province sought to build on this impressive headway that had been made.
“We have been working on the figures. As Gauteng we have 15.2 million people but I think the issue is to start with those who are high risk. Our healthcare workers will be among the first people to undergo the screening, and then people who have got contacts, meaning individuals who live in areas where there is a high number of infected people.”
Masuku explained further: “We have a system we have to follow. The issue is about the contacts, we don’t just decide at random.
“The issue is about the densely populated contacts. For instance, when we went to Alexandra [township] it was because there was a reported case of an individual who tested positive.
“So we went to the tavern where the individual had been, we also went to other places where the patient spent most of his time. The same as [what we did] with Duduza [township in Ekurhuleni] where we screened almost 2 000 individuals who had been in close proximity with the healthcare worker [who had tested positive] and the clinic itself.
“We will start it [the mass testing] like that so that it becomes systematic and we cover those who are most vulnerable before going to those who are not highly at risk.”
Alexandra township recorded its first case last month.
Five people were subsequently placed under quarantine after it was confirmed that they had been in “close contact with the confirmed case”.
At the same time, the city of Ekurhuleni closed the Duduza clinic in Nigel indefinitely after a nurse tested positive for Covid-19.
She had attended a church gathering at the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein, Free State, on March 10.
Several people who attended the same gathering, including the African Christian Democratic Party leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, have since tested positive for the virus.
Masuku said the centre would be used for isolation and quarantining.
“This temporary site is only going to deal with isolation and quarantine but if there is need and demand we will also be able to put 250 to 300 intensive care unit or hospital beds,” he said.
“We have got seven centres that are operating currently – one in Esselen Park in Kempton Park, one in Midrand at the Eskom Midrand Centre, and the Telkom Centre also Kempton Park.
“So all those are functioning but we have not gotten to a point where we require them ... we just have to be prepared. Like I said, it is better to over prepare than to be under prepared,” Masuku said.