Capetonians younger than 55 – who also have no serious underlying medical conditions which may make them vulnerable – may no longer be tested for Covid-19.
This appears to represent a dramatic change to testing policy and is a recommendation by the Western Cape government's Department of Health, aimed at prioritising testing for those most at risk.
Department head Dr Keith Cloete confirmed this to News24 on Tuesday afternoon. He said that the provincial health department had already begun implementing its new policy, along with the City of Cape Town.
He stressed that the policy was a "recommendation", and was not binding on all healthcare services, such as private or NGO facilities.
Instead, only the provincial and City health teams had begun implementing this new policy.
In an interview with Cape Talk on Tuesday, Cloete confirmed to the broadcaster that they had recommended that the testing strategy now change in the Cape Town metro, to prioritise those most at risk.
This following a widely reported nationwide backlog in testing and a projected rise in cases going forward.
As of Tuesday, of the province's more than 23 000 cases, the metro had 19 038 cases, of which 8 108 were active.
People who will still qualify for testing are:
- People already in hospital with Covid-19 symptoms;
- Healthcare workers with Covid-19 symptoms;
- People who are older than 55 with diabetes or hypertension and Covid-19 symptoms;
- People who are younger than 55 with underlying conditions and Covid-19 symptoms;
- People who live in a care home or an old age home with Covid-19 symptoms.
Those who are younger than 55, but have a comorbidity, like diabetes, are still considered a higher risk, Cloete said.
Those younger than 55 who have flu-like symptoms, but do not have a comorbidity, can still get screened, but do not need to be tested.
"If you're younger than 55 and you have symptoms, assume you have Covid-19... After 14 days, you'll be fine... There's no purpose in getting a test," he told the broadcaster.
Those who still want to get a test from a private facility could still try, but the capacity of the testing all-round was under strain, and so they were working with the private sector with regards to this, Cloete said.
"The main reason is that, where we find ourselves, our focus turns toward people who are vulnerable. We want to reduce mortality and morbidity, and reduce the risk," he told the broadcaster.
He pleaded with people to be mindful of people who are the most vulnerable, and ensure those who are young, or healthy, do not expose themselves to those who are not.
Speaking at one of the Western Cape's new "temporary field hospitals" on Monday, at a commercial business park in Brackenfell, Cloete reiterated that "90% of people" who contracted the coronavirus would not need be hospitalised, but must self-isolate. "So, all you need is to do what you do for the flu - which is: drink fluids, take paracetamol and, yes, ginger and lemon - and recover."
The Western Cape premier's spokesperson Bianca Capazorio told News24 that the province would be hosting a briefing this week to expand on the change in testing strategy.
- Additional compilation by Paul Herman