The Department of Health has added the rapid antigen tests on the line of COVID-19 statistics, with effect from 23 November. Testing for SARS-Co-V-2 in South Africa is based on the gold standard of a laboratory confirmed PCR test. Initially all COVID19 positive cases were diagnosed through this method.

In October 2020 rapid antigen tests were approved by SAHPRA for use and have been increasingly used by healthcare professionals to diagnose COVID-19. These rapid antigen tests have been offered across the country in both the private and public sector and through the mobile laboratories of the NHLS across the country. These tests provide easier access to testing and provide results within 15 -20 minutes of testing.

They are now produced by multiple manufacturers and used for testing in line with SAHPRA`s approval. The country`s COVID-19 surveillance data is premised on capturing laboratory confirmed case data of both the PCR and rapid COVID-19 antigen tests.

“Through ongoing efforts to ensure the best available surveillance data for decision-making, the department is aware of a number of COVID-19 antigen tests from various sources that have not been incorporated into the laboratory information system. The identification of these additional data are not unusual as data cleaning, quality checks and endeavours for completeness are ongoing processes< the DoH says in a statement.

 The Department says as of 8 November approximately 75 000 antigen tests were identified that need to be captured into the database. Of these tests about 20 813 were diagnosed as positive for SARS-CoV-2.

According to the Department, the retrospective incorporation of these positive cases into the surveillance data will have no impact on case management and follow-up as patient is immediately informed of a positive test result. There have been extensive engagements with the National Incident Management Team, the Provinces, the NHLS and the NICD, and the data were included on 22 November. The Department says this has led to an increase in a single day, which will create a distortion of the 7-day moving average and an unusual spike on the reporting epidemic curve.

Source: Department of Health