SAMHS launches mass coronavirus screening and testing campaign


The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) launched a mass COVID-19 coronavirus screening and testing campaign for the military community as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

This, a statement has it, is part of the overall SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contribution to the government-led effort to flatten the curve of infection.

First venue for the SAMHS screening and testing component was the SA Defence Intelligence College (SADIC), north of AFB Waterkloof on Johan Rissik Drive, Groenkloof on Monday 20 April. Military Command Council members were screened and tested for coronavirus.

SAMHS Director Nursing, Brigadier General Zuziwe Maso, said members “are being screened and tested based on their history by doctors and nurses here today. This team of medical officers are specialists at an isolation unit in 1 Military Hospital. They all wear their personal protective equipment (PPE) because they are at highest risk of  infection and need to avoid contamination.

“Key personnel to be prioritised according to our planning are healthcare workers and caregivers because they are our centre of gravity. If we lose healthcare workers it poses a great challenge.”

Today (Wednesday, 22 April) Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will be at the SA Army’s premier infantry institution – Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape. She is set to oversee screening and testing of all military skills development (MSD) volunteers and school administrative personnel to isolate suspected COVID-19 cases.

The campaign is, according to the statement, “widely relevant, focused and actively orientated, requiring mass mobilisation of military community for early detection and intervention to prevent an increase in mortalities and subsequently mitigate spread of coronavirus”.

The SAMHS  designed a plan to approach screening and testing of the military community in order of priority in April. Those in the red include members working in isolation units, healthcare workers and members in quarantine. Ones in the orange category include healthcare workers  in every military health facility and deployed frontline soldiers.

After this, it will be patients admitted to hospitals who are in the yellow. Pregnant women, persons with disabilities and co-morbidities are in the blue. The rest of the military population is categorised as green and will be screened and tested.

Last week SAHMS told defenceWeb it was screening for coronavirus using thermal screening, assessment questionnaires and presented symptoms.

“Further particular tests are only conducted on suspected COVID-19 cases. Results determine further management and/or treatment,” defenceWeb was told. According to an earlier statement the “military community includes dependents of serving and retired soldiers as well as others eligible for care by SAMHS” which includes military veterans.