South Africa commissions mobile testing units as COVID-19 cases hit 1,380

South African Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize accompanied by MEC Bandile Masuku and CEO of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) Dr Kamy Chetty unveiling the NHLS Mobile Laboratory. COURTESY: TWITTER/Zweli Mkhize

South Africa on Wednesday commissioned 67 mobile sampling and testing units in the wake of the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the country which now stands at 1,380.

The launch will see South Africa embark on an aggressive mass testing exercise in light of the increasing incidences of local COVID-19 transmissions.

According to the government the 67 units will be deployed across the country to all districts and metropolitan municipalities.

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said the current capacity of the country’s laboratories had been pushed up to 5,000 tests in 24 hours in 10 laboratories. Though 44,202 people have been tested so far for the virus, mainly in private laboratories, Mkhize said there was room for improvement.

“This (number of people tested) for us is way too few for the size of population and inequality, poverty and underlying burden of diseases and immune suppression we have. Even though this number seems high, it is way too low for the kind of challenges that South Africa faces.”

An estimated 10,000 personnel will visit residences in villages, towns and cities to test citizens, especially those in areas identified as hotspots.

Mkhize said the rollout was necessary to help South Africa get an honest assessment of the level of the spread of the virus.

“Our testing criteria is reactive and restrictive. This means we don’t have a true picture. Although we are talking about 45,000 tests, this is too low, given the size of the population,” Mkhize said.

Meanwhile, Mkhize also announced that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 1,380. This represented an increase of 27 from the figure announced on Tuesday.

Gauteng Province still accounts for most of the country’s confirmed cases with 645 (46.7%) followed by Western Cape with 326 (23.6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (13.47%).

Mkhize attributed the reduced numbers to the border closure, enforcing of a quarantine on incoming travellers and the lockdown which has decreased internal transmission.

“We need to engage all community leaders. Spread the message of stay at home and the importance of hygiene must be made more emphatically,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize also urged South Africans to remain calm and follow government regulations during this critical period.

“This disease affects us all, black, white, rich or poor. We need to be united as a nation and focused when addressing this issue. Not that we should panic, but we must not be complacent.”

South Africa is the nation in Africa hardest hit by the coronavirus. Health experts have warned that even facilities in Africa’s richest nation, South Africa, could be overwhelmed by the virus’ spread.

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