Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that as of 25 May there was a backlog of over 96 000 unprocessed COVID-19 tests.
Mkhize dropped the news while announcing the latest COVID-19 figures in the country on Thursday 28 May.
The Health Ministry announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa had risen to 27 403; an increase of 1 466 since Wednesday 27 May. Deaths also increased by 25, coming to a total of 577.
BACKLOG IN COVID-19 TESTS
In terms of unprocessed specimens as of 25 May, the Eastern Cape recorded 22 802, the Free State recorded 8 800, Gauteng recorded 24 076, KwaZulu-Natal recorded 22 802 and the Western Cape recorded 18 000.
This comes to a total of 96 480 unprocessed specimens as of 25 May.
Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape, Limpopo and the North West do not record backlogs of unprocessed specimens.
“The acting director-general was indeed correct when he stated that the backlog was around 80 000. This is to confirm that the exact figure of specimens that have not been processed is 96 480 as at 25 May 2020,” said Mkhize.
LIMITED AVAILABILITY OF KITS
The minister also made reference to the backlog of tests that had not been allocated and stated the figure of 30 000. This was in reference to the backlog of tests done but remain unknown at this stage as depicted in the table entitled COVID-19 indicators by province.
“As at 27, May 634 996 tests had been conducted and of those, a total of 29 948 tests reflects a backlog of unallocated tests. This is due to the lack of sufficient data recorded and this requires the NICD to verify each test prior to allocating it to a province,” he added.
“The above table illustrates that number of tests conducted versus the specimens collected but not yet processed fluctuates on a daily basis,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said the challenge is mainly due to the limited availability of test kits globally (this is, inadequate supply of extraction kits and high throughputs of PCR kits).
Whilst specimens to test for COVID-19 are being collected from the community screening campaign, priority is being given to processing specimens that are received from patients who are admitted in hospital and healthcare workers.
“We continue to engage suppliers all over the world and have issued licenses through SAHPRA as part of mitigating this capacity challenge,” added Mkhize.