- The Eastern Cape premier’s office and national health department have slammed the dumping of Covid-19 specimens on the N2.
- So far, 88 sampled have been collected after they were discovered along the highway near Mdantsane.
- The health department labelled it “dangerous”, “criminal”, and said the specimens could have infected someone.
The Covid-19 test samples that were found strewn near the busy N2 in the Eastern Cape on Monday could have infected people with Covid-19.
The disturbing statement was made by Eastern Cape Department of Heath Superintendent-General Dr Thobile Mbengashe on Tuesday.
eNCA reported on Monday that hundreds of the used specimen had been found dumped on the N2 roadside by a jogger. The health department and the National Health Laboratory Services have launched investigations into the incident.
Speaking at a media briefing held by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and his cabinet, Mbengashe said: “The specimens that were in that courier van are what we call bio-hazard, meaning they are capable of spreading infection to those who came into contact with them.”
Mbenashe said the incident undermined the government’s programme to fight the spread of coronavirus. He slammed the incident. “We want to assure people that it is an incident that will never happen again and should be condemned. It should not have happened.”
“The courier system which takes specimen from King William’s Town and Port Elizabeth, those specimens came out of that system and were still trying to establish how it happened. The NHLS will be issuing a statement on this.”
Mbengashe said the NHLS would be assessing the quality of the specimen and those found damaged. They would be discarded and owners of those samples would be called to retest. NHLS area manager Tabita Makula said her office had managed to collect 88 specimens.
The Eastern Cape government has apologised for the incident and vowed that it will never happen again.
Speaking at the briefing, Mabuyane said:
On behalf of the provincial government, we want to apologise for the incident, it is completely wrong and unacceptable, dehumanising to our society. Those who posted the specimen with people’s names, are equally wrong, it shows how sick our society [is]. To post people’s DNA samples with their names on social media is also as wrong.
Mabuyane accused the courier company of negligence. “We condemn what has happened and that is why we need seek to know exactly what happened. How did a courier company lose these? It’s an element of negligence on the part of people hired to handle sensitive samples and names of people.”
Mabuyane said the courier company had been coming from Komani to collect samples in King William’s Town and East London for testing in Port Elizabeth.
“This recklessness portrays the government as careless. It is not government. We will deal with this effectively. It humiliates the government.”
In a subsequent statement released by the Department of Health, the dumping was labelled as dangerous and criminal.
“What is worrisome is that this was not just medical waste but specimens. These specimens have identity numbers and contact details of individuals. The courier company that was contracted must be traced and provide answers as to what happened to get to the bottom of this situation.”
“In our view, this is an intentional criminal act which must be condemned strongly. It is a violation of people’s rights and dignity when the test kits containing their personal information are found next to the road.”