In light of the increasing incidence of COVID-19 local transmissions, it has become necessary to scale up the capacity of testing citizens across the country.

To this end, The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has bought 60 mobile sampling and testing units to be deployed nationwide to all districts and metropolitan municipalities.

The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, officially launched these mobile testing units at the NHLS in Sandringham alongside Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize cuts the ribbon at the launch of the Mobile Testing and Sampling Units alongside Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku.

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday (April 1), Dr Mkhize says that these mobile units will speed up testing in communities across the country, especially the hotspots where there are rising cases of positive COVID-19 patients.

“We need every plan to be put in place. My plea to the colleagues was firstly setting of the mobile units to be set-up. These vehicles must go to where we have already identified as hotspots. People who are symptomatic must be tested first,” he said.

Minister Mkhize says the department will also buy rapid test kits. These are made to test one person and get results quickly. The tests then be extended to the family. He says they will seek people to test rather than waiting for people to come to clinics.

Mkhize said many people needed to get tested to get a true picture of the spread of the virus in the country.

Around 10 000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms.

People with symptoms will be referred to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing. People who are infected with Coronavirus, but who have no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by government and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals.

Using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system will be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed Coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real time.

Dr Mkhize said those people who might have mild symptoms in poorer areas may not seek assistance immediately and this posed a risk. Now officials will seek people to test rather than wait for them to present themselves at a clinic for testing.

“Our testing criteria is reactive and restrictive. This means we don’t have a true picture. Although we are talking about 45 000 tests, this is too low, given the size of the population.

“We need to engage all community leaders. Spread the message of stay at home and the importance of hygiene must be made more emphatically,” the Minister said.

He said that next month the flu season will start which meant more people will flood the hospitals and clinics.

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