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Updated Coronavirus testing guide: A quick reference for South African healthcare workers

An updated version of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ reference guide for health workers testing for the new coronavirus.

Resource details:

Publication title: Updated Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Quick Reference for Health Workers

Author(s): National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the National Department of Health (NDoH)

Publication date: 2 April 2020

What the testing guide is about: 

The second update to the NICD’s reference guide for the testing of the coronavirus broadens testing eligibility as South Africa seeks to ramp up testing for the new coronavirus.

Key take-aways from the updated testing guide:

What’s changed:

  • The updated guidelines relax the testing criteria: People with acute respiratory illness who suddenly experience at least one of a group of symptoms can get tested for the coronavirus. These symptoms include a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever (including a history of fever).
  • The new directives also identify individuals at high risk. These include people who have an acute respiratory illness and who in the two weeks prior to symptoms had either travelled to a high-risk country; come into close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, been in a health facility in which COVID-19 patients were being treated or had been admitted to hospital with a severe case of pneumonia that can’t be explained.

What remains the same:

  • As with previous versions of the guidelines, this new set still requires that patients testing for the virus be isolated and examined in a private room. Patients should wear surgical masks, and their movements around the facility should be restricted during their consultation. Healthcare professionals doing the testing should wear protective gear, including masks and eye gear when performing exams (or at all times if such equipment is available).
  • Samples from the patient’s airway passages (respiratory tract), preferably the lower passages, will be collected. Healthcare workers are required to fill out three forms providing details on the patient and their test sample as well as any close contacts.
  • COVID-19 is still categorised as a Class 1 medical condition, meaning healthcare workers are required to report diagnosed cases to the NICD immediately.
  • The NDoH also needs to be notified within 24 hours. As with previous guideline versions, this update requires that healthcare workers notify district or provincial communicable disease coordinators (CDCs) once a patient has been tested for the coronavirus, or upon receiving the lab diagnosis. CDCs will then notify the NICD which will then begin contact tracing.

You can find and download the updated coronavirus testing guide here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the NICD for the latest information. Visit www.sacoronavirus.co.za for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]

Gopolang Makou was the impact and engagement officer at Bhekisisa.