Coronavirus: Laboratories struggling to meet the demand for tests

Coronavirus: Laboratories struggling to meet the demand for tests

Requests for Covid-19 testing has left South African pathology labs under extreme pressure to meet the demand due to an inconsistent supply of materials required to do the tests.

In a letter by the National Pathology Group dated 20 March, the association noted the predicament of laboratories after the outbreak of the virus.

“Requests for Covid-19 testing are placing extreme pressures on our member laboratories’ resources,” the letter read.

“Worldwide demand has created bottlenecks in the supply of N95 and surgical masks, nasopharyngeal swabs, gloves and Covid-19 testing kits.”

News24 reported last week that experts had raised the alarm about the lack of testing capacity at laboratories in spite of calls for expanded testing to take place.

READ: SA faces critical shortage of test kits

The heads of the laboratories confirmed this in their statement.

“Our laboratories are struggling to meet demand and turnaround times due to the inconsistency in supply of materials required to produce reliable results.”

The letter added that the laboratories are cooperating with each other to purchase and share supplies so that they can all operate as efficiently as possible.

The letter also requested that people making use of the laboratory services adhere strictly to the guidelines of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for making test requests.

Testing asymptomatic people is wasting scarce resources, the letter said.

The letter also calls for patience as laboratories fail to meet published test result turnaround time targets.

The laboratories will also be prioritising testing for in-hospital patients, high-risk groups and index cases in community centres such as schools and old-age homes.

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The letter was signed by the CEOs of Ampath, Lancet Laboratories and PathCare.

The letter’s authenticity was verified by a virologist at one of the laboratories.

National health department spokesperson Popo Maja told News24 that the letter was an excellent message from the National Pathology Group.

“Tests should only be done on the request of clinicians. Testing resources are not unlimited hence only those who met case definition criteria will be tested,” Maja said.

“We appeal to communities to be calm and practice hand hygiene and social distance as advised by government.”

By Saturday, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 stood at 240, with the majority of cases in Gauteng.

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