Mabuyane launches mass coronavirus-testing campaign

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane launched the province's mass coronavirus-testing programme in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane launched the province's mass coronavirus-testing programme in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.
Image: SIBONGILE NGALWA

It was boots on the ground as Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and health MEC Sindiswa Gomba launched the province's mass coronavirus-testing programme in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.

Some of the plans in place as provincial leaders prepare for any coronavirus-related eventuality include mobile testing units, health officials going door-to-door and business premises ready to be used as makeshift hospitals.

Mabuyane said the province had five mobile testing units — one of which would be used in the Bay.

The work the mobile units' work would  be done in collaboration with the National Health Laboratory Services, he said.

Mabuyane spent the day conducting oversight visits to a number of facilities that will be used in the fight to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

With the capacity to process more than 1,000 samples a day, I'm quite relieved and confident

He was optimistic that all protocols were in place as the province prepares to escalate its mass testing, which will include door-to-door testing from Monday.

“This unit  [the mobile unit] is showing good signs and with the teams at the NHLS and the doctors saying they are ready and, having seen for myself, indeed they are ready.

“With the capacity to process more than 1,000 samples a day, I'm quite relieved and confident,” Mabuyane said.

He said the provincial government was preparing for any eventuality and with the lab and mobile unit up and running the number of cases in the province should be expected to spike.

“Right now, we might say our numbers are low only to find after the mass testing that they were just delayed.

“In the last week, we have seen the influx of people from other provinces because of the shutdown.

“We have to prepare for anything,” Mabuyane said.

Whereas, previously, we had to wait three to four days for the results from Johannesburg, now we can get results the same day or, at the latest, the next

During the premier's visit to the NHLS at Provincial Hospital, Dr Howard Newton explained the crucial role played by the lab.

“We can easily do 1,000 tests a day and, as we have shown the premier, we have these state-of-the-art instruments that allow us to shorten the turn-about time for the results.

“Whereas, previously, we had to wait three to four days for the results from Johannesburg, now we can get results the same day or, at the latest, the next,” Newton said.

 Gomba said the preliminary results showed there were areas in the province that needed to be the focus of testing because of the number of cases — these included Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, the Amathole district and the Sarah Baartman district.

“There are districts that did not have any positive cases, but that does not mean we are complacent and will not be testing there but that they had to start with the areas where there are positive cases.”

Gomba said an elderly person had tested positive in the Bay, bringing the metro's total number of cases to six.

She said testing had been guided by the areas in which the positive cases had been identified.

“That is why it was important for us to ensure that our labs have the capacity to test the samples that will be collected because at least now testing has been decentralised, unlike when we were all held up in Gauteng and had problems of waiting.

“Now there'll be less waiting time for results and the sooner we get the results the sooner we can create a perimeter and test the whole area and quarantine when need be,” Gomba said.


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