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Over 5,000 field workers mobilised on day 1 of COVID-19 testing in SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that 10,000 health workers would be sent to people’s homes to test for the COVID-19.

Gauteng healthcare workers screening Alexandra residents for coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020 following the roll out of massive community screenings and testing programmes by the provincial executive council. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - As the country kicked off a massive coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and screening programme, the Department of Health on Tuesday said over 5,000 field workers were already mobilised and would be spread out across the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that 10,000 health workers would be sent to people’s homes to test for the COVID-19. The government would also use mobile technology to track and trace contacts of those infected with the virus.

The Health Department said it already began mobilising field workers and the number would reach 10,000 in the coming days.

Health Department deputy director general Dr Yogan Pillay said: “We have organised 5,400 field workers and over the next couple of days, we will get up to the 10,000 as the president had mentioned.”

Pillay said officials would be targeting communities where there were already infections such as Alexandra and Khayelitsha.

“So that we can then quickly prevent this infection from spreading in those communities,” he said.

Testing began in Alexandra on Tuesday where the area’s first COVID-19 patient had resided.

SHORTAGE OF PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) urged South Africans to refrain from purchasing face masks if they are not infected with COVID-19 or working as healthcare practitioners.

The NICD echoed the World Health Organisation’s sentiments as medical professionals around the world faced a mass shortage of protective equipment.

The institute’s Dr Juno Thomas said there was no evidence that face masks were effective in preventing the general public from getting the coronavirus.

“If members of the public are wearing face masks indiscriminately, it means that there are going to be fewer face masks available for sick people and more importantly for healthcare workers, which will place that very important segment of the population in a very high risk of being infected,” she said.

Thomas suggested that masks could put users at risk if not used or disposed of properly.

“People that wear face masks and keep on touching them… they’re indirectly infecting themselves.”

GAUTENG COVID-19 TESTS

At the same time, the Gauteng government will dispatch 4,000 community health workers to conduct COVID-19 tests across the province.

Premier David Makhura announced this at the Stjwetla informal settlement in Alexandra on Tuesday. That is where one person tested positive for the virus.

The man left Gauteng while waiting for his results and ignored instructions from officials. He was then arrested and put into isolation in Limpopo.

Makhura said tests across the province were the beginning of a mass testing drive of people.

“More than 4,000 community health workers involved in this intensive mass testing are spread throughout the five regions in our province. By Sunday, we had 69 testing sites throughout the province,” he said.

Community members welcomed the move, saying they wanted to know their status.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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