SAMHS screening defence personnel for coronavirus


There is no mass testing for coronavirus of airmen, military medics, sailors and soldiers. The medical service is, however, screening and following up with more detailed medical action if and where positive symptoms present.

This is the essence of a response by the directorate: corporate services of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to a defenceWeb enquiry following earlier statements on the pandemic and its possible negative influence on the force.

On Monday Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula was quoted as saying 125 tests were done on 184 SANDF suspected coronavirus cases.  Three tested positive with 15 inconclusive according to government news agency SAnews. A day later an official SANDF statement said there were four positive COVID-19 cases in the national defence force adding none were uniformed personnel or deployed in support of police during the lockdown.

“There is no mass testing of SANDF members for COVID-19. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) is doing screening by means of thermal screening, subsequent assessment questionnaires and presented symptoms. Further particular tests are only conducted on suspected COVID-19 cases. Results determine further management and/or treatment,” read the response.

On the issue of quarantine and isolation facilities for not only serving military but the extended military community including veterans, their families and the families of serving national defence force personnel, this publication was told “these have been identified and established”. Site locations were not supplied, apart from stating they are in all nine provinces “in preparation for an envisaged overflow from military hospitals and sickbays”.

The SAMHS health footprint nationally includes three hospitals in Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Thaba Tshwane as well as sickbays and, in some instances, pharmacies at major bases. These include Naval Base Simon’s Town, AFB Ysterplaat, AFB Waterkloof and AFB Makhado.