A younger boy appears on as a Gauteng Well being Division Official adjusts her gloves earlier than amassing samples throughout a door-to-door COVID-19 coronavirus testing drive in Yeoville, Johannesburg, on April three, 2020. MARCO LONGARI / AFP
South African public healthcare employees dispersed into the buzzing streets of Johannesburg’s Yeoville neighbourhood on Friday as Africa’s worst virus-hit nation rolled out mass door-to-door testing for COVID-19.
Armed with screening questionnaires and testing kits, medics and volunteers arrange their testing station on the entrance porch of a block of flats within the gritty enterprise neighbourhood.
Nurse Xola Dlomo advised AFP they have been asking one resident to mobilise fellow flat dwellers to return for screening and exams.
“They’ve been coming for screening and they are even open to testing if they have symptoms,” Dlomo mentioned.
Already in a 21-day lockdown, South Africa is now embarking on the widespread testing and quarantine marketing campaign involving some 10,000 subject employees who’re being despatched out into houses in villages, cities and cities to display for signs.
The testing plan to interrupt the chain of an infection seems to be modelled on the South Korean technique which noticed the Asian nation deliver the outbreak beneath management.
In Yeoville — a crime-prone space in Johannesburg’s hardscrabble central enterprise district — eight small teams have been dispatched throughout an space protecting one sq. kilometre.
“The health of our people is our first consideration,” mentioned Kegorapetse Ndingandinga, overseeing the Yeoville workforce.
Scaling up testing
Along with his head tilted again, 58-year-old Michael Moshone, braced for his nasal swab, seated on a brick staircase in Yeoville.
“It is a little bit uncomfortable but you’ve got to be strong… because you want to know exactly what is going on with you,” Moshone, wrapped in a inexperienced, gold and black scarf, mentioned after his pattern was taken.
Earlier than the rollout of mass screening and testing, greater than 47,500 exams had been carried out, 6,000 of them at public well being centres.
However for Well being Minister Zweli Mkhize that quantity is just too low for a rustic of 57 million folks the place a number of hundreds of thousands have underlying situations resembling HIV and TB.
The turnout was gradual on the primary day, Dlomo mentioned.
However for Moshone who has lived within the space for 26 years, the trickle of individuals is not any shock.
It reminds him of the early 1990s when HIV first emerged within the nation, which now has the world’s highest HIV prevalence fee.
“In South Africa, this thing is like HIV because when HIV started here… we didn’t take it seriously until we saw people dying,” he mentioned.
However Dlomo is hopeful that visibility of heath care employees in communities will push folks to understand “that this thing is serious and they need to take precautions”.
World Well being Organisation technical officer Mary Stephen advised AFP that based mostly on how the virus has unfold by means of different international locations, governments are urged to scale up public consciousness, surveillance and medical care.
South Africa’s public Nationwide Well being Laboratory Service (NHLS) has secured 67 cellular vans to ramp up testing throughout the nation.
At the moment the state will be capable to perform 5,000 exams in 24 hours at 10 laboratories countrywide, however at full capability it could actually course of 30,000 exams every day.
Calm earlier than storm
The nation is at present observing a 21-day lockdown patrolled by the police and navy, an ideal time to hold out the cellular testing, in response to the well being minister.
However the lockdown is little revered within the densely-populated Yeoville.
“They don’t want to isolate themselves inside their houses. They come out with their kids, they don’t care,” mentioned Masechaba Motaung, pointing at a busy road.
“They take this virus as if there is nothing happening.”
Police have used rubber bullets, teargas and whips to power folks to keep up social distancing and power folks again into their houses.
Whereas South Africa has thus far solely reported 7 deaths and 1,505 infections, Mkhize has warned that the comparatively small progress in numbers was maybe “the calm before a heavy and devastating storm”.