COVID-19: S. Africa seeks to ramp up capacity to conduct rapid tests

Thus far seven lives have been claimed by COVID-19 in the country, with the number of infections now at 1,505.

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 – The health department said it's still verifying two fatalities that are possibly linked to coronavirus.

Thus far seven lives have been claimed by COVID-19 in the country, with the number of infections now at 1,505.

WATCH: COVID-19 update on 3 April 2020

Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla said more capacity is being built to do rapid tests in addition to the lab and mobile tests to fight the pandemic.

Phaahla said there's no longer a backlog at the national institute for communicable diseases but the tests still take at least 24 hours.

He said the way forward is to test as many people as possible.

The deputy health minister said although scientists only started studying the coronavirus four months ago, they now understand better how to detect it.

Phaahla said, for now, it’s understandable that it takes 24hours to get results. But South Africa wants to improve this.

“There are machines which we hope to acquire quite soon which are going to reduce the time to around one hour so that’s where we are going.”

He says the next step is to include rapid tests

“The rapid test can give you results in 30 or 15 minutes some in 5 to 10 minutes but the level of accuracy is different but – in terms surveillance being able to know of how many people have come in contact with the virus it will do that because it tests what is called antibodies.”

Phaahla said China agrees with South Africa that rapid tests will cover many people quicker.

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