'We're holding Covid-19 tests for hospital patients': Prof Abdool Karim explains why

10 July 2020 - 13:04
By Jessica Levitt
Prof Salim Abdool Karim says SA is facing a shortage of Covid-19 test kits.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu Prof Salim Abdool Karim says SA is facing a shortage of Covid-19 test kits.


"We have to protect tests for those people in hospital."

That's what the chair of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, Prof Salim Abdool Karim, said health-care workers and facilities will focus on to ensure those in need are prioritised.

He was speaking to Jacaranda's Martin Bester, who asked about the testing irregularities reported by many.

Abdool Karim admitted the single biggest challenge is that "we just can't buy enough tests".

"It's not because we don't have the money or anything. It's just that the whole world is trying to buy the same test kits we are trying to buy. Suppliers can only supply us a limited number."

He said around 35,000 tests are being conducted daily, but SA would like to double that number. 

Abdool Karim said the influx of people testing is large and there are backlogs. He said because of the backlogs, patients have "to wait a long time" before they get their results, which is "futile."

The professor explained that the testing strategy has changed to focus on patients in hospitals.

"Now we're saying to people, we don't have tests. We have to protect those for people in hospital. If you are exposed and you are concerned you may have the disease, we aren't going to test you, because most likely when we test people like that, they are negative. Instead we say to people quarantine for 14 days."

Positive coronavirus cases have surged across SA in recent weeks, with Abdool Karim and health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize saying the country is fast approaching the eye of the storm.

In Gauteng alone, positive cases have increased by 183% in two weeks, and the death toll  by 246% during the same period.