Covid-19 tests rationed in Cape Town as demand soars, says Winde

Covid-19 tests in Cape Town will only be given to people in seven categories as cases soar, premier Alan Winde said on December 28 2020.
Covid-19 tests in Cape Town will only be given to people in seven categories as cases soar, premier Alan Winde said on December 28 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Covid-19 tests are being rationed in Cape Town due to high demand, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Monday.

“We have introduced a risk-adjusted testing strategy ... to ensure that testing is reserved for situations where there is the most risk,” Winde said in a statement.

The seven categories of people eligible for tests are:

  • those with Covid-19 symptoms who are admitted to hospital;
  • those with symptoms who live in large, group, confined spaces such as old age homes, care homes and prisons;
  • those with symptoms who are high-risk because they are older than 45 or have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart, kidney or lung disease, cancer, TB or HIV;
  • asymptomatic patients awaiting surgery;
  • those who die of natural causes at home after experiencing symptoms;
  • all health-care workers with symptoms and who are in quarantine and asymptomatic at day seven (so they can return to work); and
  • those who have previously tested positive but have new symptoms, as long as it is 90 days after their first PCR test.

Winde said 45% of Covid-19 tests were returning a positive result. “This is higher than the proportion recorded during the peak of the first wave and is very concerning to us,” he said.

“We have also recorded more active cases and more hospitalisations in this second wave, than we did at the peak of the first.”

The Western Cape government Covid-19 dashboard at 1pm on Monday.
The Western Cape government Covid-19 dashboard at 1pm on Monday.
Image: Western Cape government

By 1pm on Monday, there were 3,064 hospital patients with Covid-19 in the Western Cape, with 363 in intensive care. This compared with first-wave peaks of 1,837 and 357, respectively.

The province has 38,881 active infections, more than double the 17,612 at the peak of the first wave on July 6.

Active infections fell as low as 2,115 on October 1, and in the last fortnight they have increased at a rate of almost 1,000 a day.

Winde said the Western Cape has conducted more than a million Covid-19 tests and recorded 196,474 positive results. “Over 6,300 people have now lost their lives to this virus in the Western Cape,” he said.

Private pathology provider PathCare said at the weekend that all testing for travel purposes would stop in some areas because “the current increase in Covid cases in the Western Cape is so great that all our testing must be reserved for patients”.

The company added: “Our capacity to make testing available to travellers has been exceeded. With immediate effect we cannot provide SARS-CoV-2 testing for international travel purposes. We will honour those appointments that have already been made.

“In the following areas we cannot accept any additional travellers for testing: Cape Town northern and southern suburbs; central west coast; Somerset West; Paarl; Hermanus; and Worcester.”

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