Drive-through sites take costly sting out of Covid tests

A drive-through testing facility on the corner of Spaanschemat River Road and Kendal Road, Constantia.

A local laboratory is providing Covid-19 testing kits at two drive-through sites that offer cheaper testing for the public.

The first site opened at Hamilton Rugby Club in Green Point early in December. A second site opened on the corner of Spaanschemat River Road and Kendal Road, Constantia, early in January.

The Green Point site at Hamilton Sports Ground parking area

BioTech Africa is selling the Covid-19 RT PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) kit at R600, which is R250 less than national labs charge.

The PCR test is considered the gold standard Covid-19 test, according to provincial Department of Health spokesman Mark van der Heever.

Patients who are not on medical aid can go to any public health-care facility for testing while those on medical aid use private laboratories. Most medical aids cover the cost of the Covid-19 PCR test if the patient is referred by a doctor. However, the BioTech tests are an option for those whose medical plans don’t cover the tests; those who don’t meet the criteria for testing in a public health-care facility; those needing a test for travel purposes, as these aren’t covered by medical aids; and those who want stay away from hospitals and clinics during the pandemic.

According to Mr Van der Heever, you can get a free Covid-19 test at a public health-care facility in the Cape metro if:

• You are admitted to the hospital and have coronavirus symptoms.

• You are over 45 and have coronavirus symptoms (in rural districts all people with symptoms may be tested should the facility have capacity to do so).

• You are of any age, have coronavirus symptoms, and have a condition such as diabetes, TB, HIV, kidney disease, hypertension, cancer and chronic lung disease.

• You live in a care or old age home and have coronavirus symptoms.

• You are a health worker and have coronavirus symptoms

Should you fall outside of these criteria, you are advised to self-isolate at home for 10 days.

The provincial Department of Health has performed 244 788 Covid-19 PCR tests in the province since the beginning of December, according to Mr Van der Heever. Test results are available within 72 hours.

BioTech Africa CEO Paul Anley said they could offer a lower price because their kits used a self-sampling technique with no need for a nurse.

At the Constantia location last week, BioTech’s collection coordinator, Ian Wallace, from Plumstead, said the testing went more quickly if people made the payment online prior to arriving at the site.

All occupants stay in their vehicles during the testing process.

Charlotte Ross has a Covid test prior to returning to England.

Charlotte Ross was being tested in order to produce a Covid test 72 hours prior to her flight to England.

After checking the online paperwork, Mr Wallace gave her the test kit and asked her to remove it from an air-tight tube, push it up her nose for about two centimetres, swirl it around and put it back into the tube. This was then sealed in a collection bag and sent to BioTech’s lab.

Mr Anley said BioTech Africa’s lab was highly automated and used the same technology that was used in May to test the entire population of Wuhan, China, in a few days.

“Which means less room for human error and faster results, but we screen for antibodies too – which means people who test negative are able to discover whether they have already had the virus without knowing, and therefore have antibodies,” he said.

The testing kits would soon be sold at selected pharmacies nationwide, he said. The samples will be couriered to Biotech’s laboratories overnight for processing the next day.