Dis-Chem has closed almost all of its Covid-19 drive-through testing facilities until 4 January 2021, citing serious logistical challenges brought about by the second wave of infections.
Since the middle of December, Dis-Chem has been inundated with requests for both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody tests. In the past nine days, South Africa has seen more than 100,000 confirmed new cases of Covid-19.
Most Dis-Chem drive-through testing stations have been closed from Monday 28 December to Thursday 31 December due to challenges with medical personnel “working at the frontline”, says Dis-Chem. The company added that laboratories also don’t have capacity to process the tests.
“Most of the labs have advised today [28 December] that they have reached capacity and will prioritise very ill Covid symptom patients,” Dis-Chem says.
Only the V&A Cape Town, OR Tambo and Cape Road in Port Elizabeth drive-through testing facilities will remain open. Also, only 100 tests per location, per day will be done. This is to ensure that results will be available within two to three days.
All drive-through testing facilities should be opened by 4 January.
The announcement follows concerns around queues and delays experienced at Dis-Chem’s drive-through facilities. Demand for tests has increased by 60% since the previous month, according to data provided by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
But in line with data presented by the health department and NICD, Port Elizabeth, which was the first area to be officially named as a Covid-19 hotspot, is seeing a slight lull in testing.
Daily cases registered in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality have begun to taper off, dropping by around 30% in a week and leading some medical experts to believe that the area has surpassed the second wave’s peak.
Dis-Chem confirmed that its Cape Road testing facility in central Port Elizabeth is “experiencing lower volumes at the moment”.
Dis-Chem offers a Covid-19 PCR Viral swab tests for R850 and an anti-body test for R380. The pharmaceutical chain has urged any person wanting to be tested at a drive-through facility to register on Dis-Chem’s website before entering the queue.
Dis-Chem started offering drive-through testing in April, but in July stopped the service as it struggled with laboratory capacity during South Africa’s first wave. It reopened testing facilities a month later.