Testing key to getting ahead of Covid-19

Political parties and leaders that will shine with voters are those able to rally people without gathering them in the conventional sense of the word. /Thulani Mbele
Political parties and leaders that will shine with voters are those able to rally people without gathering them in the conventional sense of the word. /Thulani Mbele

In the wake of the government sending out fieldworkers to ramp up testing, screening and tracing for Covid-19, there is resistance to the programme caused by fake news.

It is important to understand why this door-to-door testing programme is crucial to the government's approach to addressing the pandemic.

SA has passed the midpoint of its 21-day lockdown. While the case load seems manageable, there is a steady increase in new infections daily.

The lockdown can only be seen as a temporary containment measure.

For the sake of protecting what remains of people's livelihoods it cannot be a long-term option.

Having got control over the rate of internal transmissions through a lockdown, the effort to get more South Africans tested is key to getting a step ahead of the virus.

The 10,000 healthworkers sent out to communities serve the important purpose of helping us understand how and where the virus is spreading.

This forms part of disease surveillance which is a public health measure for the management of communicable diseases. By definition, disease surveillance involves the collection, analysis and interpretation of data about a disease, from a variety of sources including clinical, laboratory and non-medical sources such as communities.

According to the World Health Organisation, monitoring and surveillance are crucial to a functioning public health system.

Conducting surveillance makes it possible to direct resources where they are most needed. It assists government to evaluate how effective control and prevention measures are. Surveillance also helps identify high-risk areas or populations, making the government able to target interventions.

In the case of the current Covid-19 pandemic, surveillance is particularly crucial to efforts at preparing for the peak of infections, that may yet be in the future, to enable officials to prepare as adequately as possible to respond.

As a country, we need to prepare for the eventuality that the virus will be with us indefinitely and so the aim is to collect intelligence to stay ahead of the virus.

Just as citizens participate in HIV and TB testing, for instance, to promote prevention and ensure urgent treatment for those who test positive, Covid-19 testing is no different.

So far, SA is leading the pack globally by taking pre-emptive measure albeit at high economic and social cost, to avert a grave health crisis in the country.

It's important for all societal stakeholders to continue to support the government's
efforts so as not to prolong the pain of containment through protracted lockdowns.

*Runji is a researcher and founder of Critical ThinkAR

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