A Gauteng Health Department official conducts a swab test on a resident of Stjwetla Section in Alexandra township on March 31, 2020. Photo: Phill Magakoe /AFP)

THE targeted testing initiative, which aims to test some 200 000 people for the coronavirus, has had a cold start as only 20 people were tested on the first day of the exercise.

The purpose of the exercise is to detect possible community transmission of the virus.

The health ministry on Sunday announced that targeted testing would be done on people who present themselves to healthcare facilities with respiratory ailments, health workers, mobile groups like journalists, people who congregate in large groups and people in the fishing and mining sectors.

Widespread testing is considered key in measuring the impact of the contagious virus in risk groups and would also inform the government on how to implement an exit strategy from the lockdown. It also coincides with a countrywide lockdown that has resulted in the country being classified into zones for movement control.

Deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue said as part of the targeted testing move, the ministry on Monday tested 20 people, with 19 negative results while they are still waiting for the results of one test.

Speaking at the Covid-19 Communication Centre yesterday, Muinjangue said the ministry has tested 546 people since the virus broke out. A total of 65 people were retested for monitoring.

Namibia still has 16 positive Covid-19 cases. Six cases have recovered while the 10 active cases are reported to be stable.

“We have also started testing every person who presents him/herself at any health facility in Windhoek with respiratory symptoms. Some are part of the 20 already tested,” she noted.

Currently 17 people are quarantined in Ohangwena, while Otjozondjupa has 39, Khomas 20, Zambezi 29 and //Kharas 12 people quarantined. This brings the total number of people quarantined to 117.

In an emailed response to The Namibian yesterday, health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the Covid-19 test on everyone who fits the criteria would be done sometime this week, but it depends on the testing team’s schedule.

“We have already been doing this targeted testing, but now our aim is to expand to have more samples. Currently, testing is only done in Windhoek, but will be rolled out to the regions once reagents are received and staff is trained,” Shangula noted.

The minister added community transmission cannot be ruled out, hence the reason for testing.

“The response measures that we have instituted before and during the time when cases were reported in Namibia seem to be working. We need to capitalise on this experience,” he said.

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