Lockdown extension depends on success of mass testing campaign, says Gauteng health boss

Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku. Gauteng is the province with the most number of Covid-19 cases in SA.
Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku. Gauteng is the province with the most number of Covid-19 cases in SA.
Image: Alaister Russel/Sunday Times

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku says any extension of the nationwide lockdown will depend on the success of the mass testing campaign in highly vulnerable and densely populated areas.

The Gauteng health department has set a target of testing between 20% and 30% of the province's total population of about 15.2-million people. This is between 3-million and 4.5- million people.

Masuku was speaking during a report back of Gauteng’s command council, which gave an update of the province’s progress in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Gauteng remains the epicentre of the country's fight against the respiratory illness, with 782 of the country’s 1,845 confirmed cases, according to figures released on Wednesday.

“We started calculating and making our tracking of the numbers from April 7, and we moved from 6,000 to 26,000 over a day. So we are certain that we are going to do a number of tests, over 100,000, over this weekend,” Masuku said.

“The issue of community testing becomes important. We need to determine the prevalence of infection, particularly in areas of high vulnerability and high density. The epicentre of Gauteng is Johannesburg.”

The economic hub of the country accounts for 440 of the 782 confirmed cases in the province. Ekurhuleni has 111, Tshwane has 90, the West Rand has 12, Sedibeng has 6 and there are 123 cases which do not have enough information to determine their locations.

“Informal settlements are a big concern hence we have a number of satellite testing sites in the informal settlements. The lockdown has helped us greatly to reduce the rate of transmission and to close borders and ports of entry into the province, hence we saw some kind of plateau last week.

“But we are seeing with the community testing we are doing, we might get another spike, and we are hoping that in determining whether the lockdown should be extended, it will depend on how successful we have been in terms of community testing,” said Masuku.

The mass testing and screening campaign was launched in Stjwetla in Alexandra township, where 1,693 people were screened and 201 tested.