Dis-Chem halts drive-through Covid-19 testing sites in Gauteng: what you need to know

13 July 2020 - 06:00 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Dis-Chem has halted drive-through Covid-19 tests as infection rates in Gauteng soar. File image.
Dis-Chem has halted drive-through Covid-19 tests as infection rates in Gauteng soar. File image.
Image: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pharmaceutical retailer Dis-Chem has closed down its drive-through Covid-19 testing sites due to backlogs and an unanticipated increase in the infection rate in Gauteng.

Dis-Chem launched the drive-through Covid-19 testing sites in Gauteng in April, with each test costing R850.

In June, the pharmaceutical retailer announced that it would be offering free tests to all unemployed South Africans and those with a job but without medical aid.

'Foreseeable future'

According to Dis-Chem, it was closing its testing facilities for the “foreseeable future” as the results have severely affected the capacity of laboratories.

It said the unanticipated increase in infections across the country, but in Gauteng in particular, had put a severe strain on the capacity of testing labs, which in turn, affected the turnaround time for Dis-Chem’s test results.

Gauteng, over the past two weeks, has seen triple the number of cases in its infection rate and it is now the Covid-19 epicentre of SA. 

“We are constantly following up with the various laboratories, but they are being forced to prioritise urgent hospital tests. The number of labs that can do the tests is limited and we are spreading our load across as many as possible,” said Dis-Chem’s national clinic manager, Lizeth Kruger in a statement.

“Another factor affecting the speed of testing and obtaining results is the reduced number of flights around the country, so transporting tests to the labs from outlying cities and other remote stations is delayed.”

Surge in numbers overwhelming

Kruger said the system was working well until a week ago, but the sudden surge in patient numbers overwhelmed all facilities.

“The reality of the situation is one that the health care sector has never faced an issue of this nature, and the fast-growing infection numbers are having a broad impact. This is just one example of an overburdened system,” said Kruger.

Reviewing the situation

Kruger said Dis-Chem would review the situation on a regular basis and consider reopening the testing facilities once there's an assurance that the various labs could cope with demand.

“We don't want to let our customers down and as we are only facilitators, we have no control over the labs. We reiterate our intention to support government by providing additional testing capacity, but this is out of our hands.

“We apologise for the delays and assure our customers and public that we are doing everything in our power to get results to them as quickly as we can. The pandemic and the rising numbers are leading to panic, and we urge consumers only to get tested if they develop symptoms,” Kruger said.


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