Travellers to SA given fast, cheap option to test for coronavirus at ports of entry

Cape Town – Antigen tests for coronavirus detection will be rolled out to all ports of entry with immediate effect, the government said on Thursday.   On arrival, a traveller will be screened for symptoms and sent for testing should they not have a certified polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result. The test will be conducted at a fee of about R150-R170 and will be paid by the traveller.   Anyone who is red-flagged for showing symptoms of Covid-19 may still be quarantined, even with a negative antigen test. Results of antigen tests are typically available within 15 minutes – as opposed to the roughly 48-hour turnaround time for PCR tests at most laboratories.

“Antigen testing will therefore enable the management of the influx of travellers without certified PCR tests timeously,” the government said.   “The antigen test is conducted by collecting a sample from the naso-oropharyngeal area, in the same manner as a PCR test, and therefore sample collection must be done by a professional and cannot be done by an individual at home.  “It is important to be aware that the PCR test remains the gold standard, given that it has much higher sensitivity and specificity than the rapid antigen test.

’’All travellers are implored to adhere to the regulations and ensure that, where possible, they complete processing their PCR tests not more than 72 hours prior to their departure or arrival at a port of entry in South Africa. This is how we can best protect each other as we travel around the world.’’     Level 1 travel regulations stipulate that all travellers arriving at a port of entry without a certified negative Covid-19 test result — not older than 72 hours — must be tested at the point of entry before entering the country.    The World Health Organisation recently approved the use of rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 as a diagnostic screening and surveillance tool in communities where a rapid result is required at low cost.   Rapid antigen tests have been commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus.

If the traveller tests positive, he/she will be required to quarantine at a facility designated by that particular port of entry. They will not be permitted to travel across provinces.   Contacts of a traveller testing positive at the point of entry, including those who were in proximity of the traveller within the conveyance, will also be tracked and traced.   Travellers who arrive without a certified PCR test and who refuse to be tested at the port of entry will not be permitted entry into the country and will be required to quarantine at a designated facility.   Business people from elsewhere in the Southern African Development Community who enter South Africa often may present the same negative PCR test for 14 days after they first show it at the border.