How Covid-19 drive-thru testing station helps to ‘flatten the curve’

(Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

The nurse explained that they do a nasopharyngeal test or nasal swab because it is 60% accurate in comparison to the oropharyngeal test, which is only about 30% accurate.

South Africans aren’t unaccustomed to queueing in a drive-thru, ordering and then waiting for food. But a drive-thru station that conducts Covid-19 tests has to be a first. Then again, we’re experiencing many firsts since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus hit South African shores just over a month ago.

HealthInsite, a corporate wellness and occupational health service provider, in collaboration with Mullah Labs, have since 26 March been conducting drive-thru Covid-19 tests at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

The mobile testing station intends to operate throughout the nationwide shutdown, in order to improve access and reduce the risk and spread of infection, while contributing to “flattening the curve”.

A nurse at the testing station who could not be named, dressed from head to toe in white protective gear, told News24 that a person must meet certain criteria before they can get tested.

All prospective patients are screened at the first stop – to check if they meet the test criteria.

“We can’t test everybody,” she said.

“Otherwise you come with a doctor’s letter. Meaning you are being referred or you have active symptoms, which is coughing, high fever and also shortness of breath.”

You also fit the criteria if you’ve been in direct contact with a patient who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The nurse explained that they do a nasopharyngeal test or nasal swab because it is 60% accurate in comparison to the oropharyngeal test, which is only about 30% accurate.

Patients receive their results within three to five days through their doctor.

The drive-thru testing station has averaged between 30 to 40 vehicles per day since opening its doors, often with more than one person per vehicle requesting testing.

To date, South Africa has 1,655 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 11 recorded deaths.

HealthInsite chief operating officer Jedd Myers told News24 that, although there is no set period during which the mobile testing station will be around, there is opportunity to diversify their services during the pandemic.

“As a country, we cannot afford bottlenecks in the system or blockages to vital services required for mitigating the impact of Covid-19. Prevailing in this war will require the committed involvement of many role-players, aligned around the national framework,” he said.

HealthInsite plans to launch testing sites in Cape Town and Durban in the coming weeks.

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