Western Cape to prioritise elderly, healthcare workers, people with comorbidities for COVID-19 testing

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Healthcare workers, people over the age of 55, as well as those with comorbidities will be prioritised for COVID-19 testing in the public sector in the Western Cape. This is part of the province’s revised testing strategy, amid a nationwide shortage of test kits and a backlog of some 27 000 outstanding test results.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde says pressure on the testing system has necessitated triage facilities. One such facility has been opened at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

The hospital in Cape Town says it has had 37 children who tested positive for COVID-19. Seven are currently in hospital. The triage and testing centre, which was officially opened today, will add additional capacity to the hospital.

“A lot of those children have comorbidities. So obviously, the kind of patients that come here are children that are known to us with comorbidites and seem to have COVID-19. So, they are not all coming here just because of COVID-19. They are coming here because they have pre-existing conditions and then happen to have COVID-19 as well,” says Red Cross Medical Manager, Dr Anita Parbhoo.

Of 77 staff who had tested positive for COVID-19 at the hospital, 44 are back at work. The Western Cape is now in its second phase of rolling out triage centres. 20 more are due in the next phase in rural areas of the province.

With some 27 000 test results outstanding due to the backlog and 19 000 of these for longer than a week, Winde, says testing will now be prioritised for those most at risk. He says people who will be tested include those admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, people who are over 55 and show symptoms and others who have symptoms with conditions like diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

“So, if you are a young person, fit and healthy and you’ve got a tickly throat, don’t go rushing to the hospital for a test because let’s rather save that for someone who needs it in a hospital. Isolate yourself, wait for you 14 days. We all know what to do. We’ve been told that test kits are on their way. Calls have been made, but in the meantime, we’ve got to make decisions with what we’ve got right now and so, let’s make sure that we are making the decisions in the best interests of where the most risk is.”

The Western Cape now has just over 24 500 confirmed cases, with nearly 14 000 recoveries and a death toll of 601.