Probe into dumped Covid-19 test kits

covid Covid-19
Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Investigations are under way into how hundreds of Covid-19 test kits — all marked as urgent — were dumped on the side of a national road in the Eastern Cape.

It is believed that the samples were on their way to Port Elizabeth from East London for testing.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the matter was now between the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) and the courier company it had used to transport the kits.

According to news reports, a jogger came across close to 500 coronavirus tests while running along the N2 near Mdantsane in East London on Tuesday last week.

The Eastern Cape has suffered an extreme backlog in testing, with some people claiming they have had to wait up to a month for their results.

According to an eNCA reporter who was on the scene on Monday, where many of the kits could still be seen strewn about the bushy area and lying in puddles of water, most of the samples were marked as having been taken on June 23 — the same day the jogger stumbled upon them.

Further down the road, many more of the test kits were allegedly found in a black plastic bag.

It is not clear why the matter was not brought to the health department’s attention earlier.

NHLS Eastern Cape area manager Tabita Makula said they had only been told about the dumped tests on Monday.

Kupelo said while it remained between the courier company and the NHLS to discover exactly what went wrong, the health department would continue to probe the unfortunate incident.

“It appears as if this happened while the items were in transit outside our facilities,” he said.

He said the courier company, which both Kupelo and Makula declined to name, would have to provide answers.

Though Kupelo was not certain how many kits had been dumped in the first place, he said some of the samples were labelled as having come from Grey Provincial Hospital in King William’s Town, and others from Bhisho Provincial Hospital.

They were reportedly on their way to Port Elizabeth for testing.

The kits had been found on the side of the N2 between East London and King William’s Town, he said.

Makula said they were able to retrieve 80 samples from the site on Monday.

“Provided that there are contact details on the samples, these people will be contacted for us to send a nurse out to them and redo the tests.”

Makula said they might still, in some cases, be able to use the same samples for testing.

“We will continue to investigate,” she said.

As of Monday, the Eastern Cape had 23,658 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.