A courier company contracted to transport Covid-19 test kits that were found alongside the N2 in the Eastern Cape has suggested the kits “fell off” the bakkie in which they were being transported.
The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) said on Wednesday that an “initial report from the courier states the canvas cover on the bakkie had opened without the driver realising it.
“Further investigations will take place and the NHLS will take the appropriate legal action against the supplier.”
The lab service said it was “perturbed by the incident”.
Health care in the province has been affected by test result backlogs.
The used kits were discovered by a passer-by along the busy national road. While initial reports suggested hundreds of tests had been found, the NHLS said there were 80.
All the specimens were from the Buffalo City municipal area.
“Among these samples was a package of three urgent samples referred from Bhisho Laboratory to Port Elizabeth for Covid-19 testing. The samples were discovered by a passer-by on the N2 between King William’s Town and East London on Monday morning.
“Subsequent to the discovery of the dumped specimens, the NHLS dispatched its officials to the site to investigate. They found a total of 80 samples scattered around. The bulk of the samples were for coronavirus disease testing,” the NHLS said.
The incident was reported to the police.
The NHLS said it was awaiting a full report from the courier company, had contacted the affected patients and deployed nurses to recollect samples from the patients.
The provincial health department voiced concern over the incident, saying the specimens had the potential to spread the virus.
“What is [also] worrisome is that this was not medical waste but specimens. These specimens have identity numbers and contact details of individuals,” said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.
“It is a violation of people’s rights and dignity when the testing kits containing their personal information are found next to the road,” Kupelo said.
He called for the NHLS to take action against the courier company.
SowetanLIVE’s sister publication TimesLIVE has been unable to reach the courier company, but will update this article if it elects to comment.