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Western Cape's Covid-19 testing backlog reduced from 26,000 to zero

18 June 2020 - 15:29 By Tanya Farber
The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is part of the temporary Hospital of Hope opened for Covid-19 patients.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre's Hall 4 is part of the temporary Hospital of Hope opened for Covid-19 patients.
Image: Esa Alexander

The Covid-19 test backlog in the Western Cape has finally been cleared, provincial head of health Dr Keith Cloete said on Thursday.

“We are glad to announce that the NHLS [National Health Laboratory Service] has no backlog as of this morning. A few weeks ago, it was as high as 26,000. As of this morning, all samples from the past 48 hours have been cleared,” Cloete told a news conference.

He said temporary testing and triage centres were on track, with half of those planned already in operation.

“We want 28 of these places in the Cape Town metro, and we have set up 14,” said Cloete.

“By July 1, we will have another 14. Our plan for rural parts of the province is 41 and to date five have been completed. The rest will come online towards the middle and end of July.”

The temporary Hospital of Hope at Cape Town International Convention Centre had admitted 88 patients in its first 10 days. Fifty-eight were still being treated there and four had died.

The field hospital at the Thusong Centre in Khayelitsha had seen eight deaths and 36 patients recovered and discharged since opening on June 2.

Cloete said acute hospitals had seen “pressure slowly building” and that capacity at those sites was being increased.

“At Groote Schuur and Tygerberg hospitals, we are nearly at capacity for critical care - meaning ICU and high care,” he said.

The province is continuing with its hotspot strategy, which entails selective screening of the most vulnerable and screening in old age homes in hotspot areas, while contact tracing for every positive case and their contacts is being beefed up.

The department was “actively encouraging everybody who cannot self-isolate or quarantine because of living conditions to take up a place in one of the facilities we have at our disposal”.

Another development is that officials are “actively managing everyone who is potentially at risk based on data gathered from 3.5-million adults who access the public health system in the province” to prevent them from becoming ill.

Public health expert with the department Prof Mary-Ann Davies said it was important that a team had been able to analyse records of so many patients from different sources (such as hospitals, pharmacists and laboratories), as well as look at the risk factors of 435 people who had died in the province from Covid-19.

The results showed that diabetes had been a comorbidity in half of the deaths, and that just under 20 had high blood pressure, compared to only 12 with HIV and six with tuberculosis.