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Community-Based Screening for COVID-19 in the Pipeline

April 3, 2020

Department of Health

Each province has been requested to start mass community-based screening, referral for clinic testing, quarantine of suspected cases and appropriate care for COVID-19 patients.

President Ramaphosa announced a “COVID Home Visits Program” at the beginning of this week during an update on the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a statement, the health department indicated that provinces are expected to deploy provincial community health care workers with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to undertake a house-to-house programme of “no-touch” screening for COVID-19 symptoms and to refer symptomatic people to clinics for testing.

The department also pointed out that the National Health Laboratory Service has procured 60 mobile vans, in addition to the 7 currently deployed to provinces, totaling 67 mobile testing units.

The mobile laboratories were launched yesterday to be deployed across South Africa.

The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, highlighted that the growth of COVID 19 positive cases has slowed over the past few days ascribed to the closing of borders, enforcing quarantine of inbound travelers and returning citizens and the lockdown.

However, the minister warned of the approaching flu season.

“Next month the flu season starts, thus making more people sick with similar symptoms, and, therefore, no way of distinguishing common colds from an upsurge of COVID-19 infection.

These will flood our clinics and hospitals and create fertile ground for Coronavirus to spread or be masked in its presentation.”

He described the current situation as possibly the “calm before a heavy and devastating storm”.

Steps to be taken over the next few days include the setting up of mobile units of health workers to move into communities with cases or contacts and set up testing and screening in communities; the procurement of additional beds and dedicated treatment Centres to only treat COVID 19 patients; more quarantine beds to be identified; the release of health professionals to focus on COVID 19 when the storm hits including reinforcements from countries such as Cuba and China and Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State to prepare dedicated capacity for additional hospital beds for COVID 19 and report progress every week.