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NHLS battles demand for COVID-19 test kits, WC facing backlog of 18,000 tests

The lab service at Tygerberg Hospital on Tuesday said despite its best efforts, it was struggling to procure test kits and reagents.

FILE: Medical swabs to test for the coronavirus. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is battling to stay ahead as the demand for COVID-19 testing increases.

The Western Cape has a backlog of 18,000 tests.

The lab service at Tygerberg Hospital on Tuesday said despite its best efforts, it was struggling to procure test kits and reagents. The hospital has a dedicated department that deals with COVID-19 testing.

However, despite their efforts to test for COVID-19, there was currently a backlog that had accumulated over the past few weeks.

The NHLS’ Wolfgang Preiser said they were doing all they could by working 24 hours a day.

“Tests kits are very scarce and in addition to getting them, even if there are there and can be purchased - to get them down to Cape Town - it’s a big issue,” Preiser said.

Preiser said they were working on a solution to expand testing capacity.

“The NHLS has procured a number of alternative platforms and tests, and they’re being installed. Everything is taking a lot longer because there is stiff international competition for the said machines,” he said.

But could it be that they had been inundated with “unnecessary” tests?

“I can’t exclude that occasionally we get such samples from people who don’t need to be tested,” Preiser said.

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