The Western Cape province, South Africa’s COVID-19 epicenter, is gripped by a severe backlog of tests, Western Cape Governor Allan Winde said on Wednesday.

The backlog of tests from the Western Cape at the National Health Laboratory Service has grown to 27,000, 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 COVID-19, may have to wait between seven to 12 days for a result,” Winde said.

The province had previously petitioned both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to address this backlog, according to Winde.

“I am appreciative of efforts that they are taking to do so,” said the governor. “I also understand the lack of test kits can be explained by global demand and subsequent limited supply to South Africa.”

As a result, the Western Cape government has taken an important decision to only test those who are at highest risk and most vulnerable of dying from COVID-19 infection in the Cape Town metropolitan area, said Winde.

“This will allow us to get test results back from these vulnerable groups quickly so that we can ensure speedy interventions to save lives,” he said, adding that this is the province’s top priority.

Until such stage as extra testing capacity is made available, this decision is the only remaining solution available to ensure early detection in those individuals who face highest risk of dying from COVID-19, Winde said.

This decision will also ensure greater protection for the healthcare workers, who need to care for the patients when they get very sick, he said.

“Indeed, if we can get a test back within 24 to 48 hours, we can ensure early treatment and if need be, hospitalization, of those people who we know will deteriorate rapidly as the infection progresses,” said Winde.

This decision was taken after careful consideration of the very serious testing challenges in South Africa, he said.

The Western Cape has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among all the provinces in the country. As of Tuesday, it recorded a total of 23,583 cases, comprising about two thirds of the national tally of 35,812.

The province also reported 568 deaths related with COVID-19, while the national death toll stood at 755. Enditem


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