SA to roll out faster COVID-19 tests at ports of entry

The Department of Health has, with immediate effect, rolled out antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 at all ports of entry in South Africa with immediate effect.

Media liaison for the Department, Dr Lwazi Manzi, pointed out that while this did not replace the required certified negative SARS-CoV-2 PCR test result (not older than 72 hours), this test could be applied to all travellers arriving in South Africa without the SARS-CoV-2 PCR test certificate.
She explained that antigen tests – which differed from different from antibody tests – detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. “The advantage of the antigen test is that, unlike the PCR test, the results are available in 15 minutes,” said Lwazi.

A press statement from government said the decision had been taken “in consideration of the logistical complications” that a point-of-entry PCR test posed. “Government is also aware that some of our neighbouring countries, for example Lesotho, do not have the capacity to conduct PCR testing for all travellers destined for South Africa. Antigen testing will therefore enable the management of the influx of travellers without certified PCR tests,” said a departmental spokesperson.

The World Health Organization has recently approved the use of rapid antigen tests as a point-of-care diagnostic for COVID-19 for a screening and surveillance tool in the community where a rapid result is required at low cost.

Professor Eftyhia Vardas, head of Virology at Lancet Laboratories, told Travel News that many labs around the world were also working on SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests. These are conducted on upper respiratory tract samples and also detect fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself.

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Source: Travel News