Daily Dispatch

Expedite testing and contact tracing to win Covid-19 war

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On March 5, the National Institute for Communicab­le Diseases confirmed SA’s first patient to test positive for Covid-19. Three weeks later the government imposed a national lockdown. Schools, workplaces, places of worship, tourism, interprovi­ncial and internatio­nal travelling — all came to a halt with the sole aim of flattening the curve of the virus. The lockdown minimised human interactio­ns, thereby cutting the rate of infections since the virus does not move on its own but is spread by people. The lockdown was meant to give the government time to put in place strategies to fight the virus — including testing and contact tracing. Details of anyone visiting public offices or shops would be captured for easy tracing in case one came into contact with an infected person.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet received praise not only from SA citizens but also from internatio­nal bodies for swiftly taking such a painful but necessary route. Speaking from Switzerlan­d on April 22, World Health Organisati­on executive secretary Dr Michael Ryan said: “It is interestin­g the way in which SA is bringing the disease under control. This strategy in SA was based on preparatio­n, primary prevention, lockdown and an enhanced surveillan­ce.”

Receiving internatio­nal praise indicates how far we went as a country. But since then, the wheels seem to have come off. On Thursday we reported on the anguish of people who have waited for more than 30 days for test results from both public and private laboratori­es.

Understand­ably, in the first two months of the lockdown the laboratori­es were overwhelme­d. But the virus has now been with us for more than five months and new strategies have been adopted, including testing only those who appear sick.

So why do we still have people waiting so long for their results? How many people have they infected while waiting for their results? These tests are not free, so what happens to the fees paid by those who have not received their results? With this kind of approach, some may die and others recover before they receive their results.

Surely as a nation we can do better. Let those who are entrusted with testing do their work diligently. We do not buy into the idea of a shortage of resources. It has been demonstrat­ed beyond doubt that the money is there but it is squandered through various pervasive corrupt practices.

The government has promised that the corrupt will be dealt with decisively. Let’s see that done swiftly, and resources properly channeled into fighting Covid-19 through expediting testing and contact tracing.

Let those who are entrusted with testing do their work diligently

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