Receiving an invalid or insufficient coronavirus (COVID-19) test result does not mean that there was an error on behalf of the laboratory during the testing process.

There are three types of results you can get back following a test – Positive, Negative or Not Detected and Invalid or Insufficient.

Receiving an invalid or insufficient result means that the lab test could not tell for sure if you have COVID-19 or not. If you get this type of result you are advised to get tested again for a clear result.

Clinical virologist at Lancet Laboratories, Professor Eftyxia Vardas says, “Receiving an inconclusive result for a COVID-19 PCR, does not mean that there has been a laboratory error. It doesn’t mean it’s an invalid result, what it does mean is that perhaps the timing of the test was at the wrong time. Either too early or too late to detect the virus properly and it is recommended in all international literature that a re-test should be done.”

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise at a rapid rate, the question then lies as to how many of the test results are coming back invalid or insufficient.

Professor Vardas says such results aren’t a frequent occurrence and they don’t contribute to a backlog in testing in any way.

“The numbers that contribute to inconclusive results are very low. They do not then contribute to the backlog and it’s an insignificant number of tests that we get on a daily basis or a weekly basis or even a monthly basis that are inconclusive.”

Johannesburg resident Thabo Mbhata, who works as a security guard, was asked by his company to go for a COVID-19 test. After five days of waiting, his results came back as insufficient. He then went for a re-test and is now awaiting his results. He says this is having a negative impact on his finances because he can’t report for duty until his test results come back and for every day he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.

“A few weeks ago they told us that they wanted us to get tested so that we don’t infect others. Since I went, my results came and the funny thing is that I have never heard of such things and it was just like a shock for me because the results came saying insufficient. I didn’t understand at first so they had to tell me that I have to come back again and that’s after another 5 days of which I have to wait after waiting for my results to come. Now I’m even scared for my work as well because no work, no pay for us,” says Mbhata.

Below is South Africa’s COVID-19 statistics