Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Photo by CDC on Unsplash.
  • You can get yourself tested for the virus behind Covid-19 for R1 400, say pathologists Lancet Laboratories.
  • Priority tests will be done for individuals with the right symptoms and history to make them high-risk, if a doctor refers them.
  • Both Discovery Health and Momentum have said they will cover the costs of your diagnosis and treatment – but for confirmed Covid-19 cases only.
  • For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see our continuously updated page on Covid-19 in South Africa.
  • For more stories go to  

*This article was updated to include response from Discovery Health, on 3 March 2020. 

You can now get yourself tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, for R1 400 but you'll need a referral from your doctor. 

Tests for the novel coronavirus are available to the public as of Monday, Professor Eftyhia Vardas, a clinical virologist at pathologists Lancet Laboratories, told CapeTalk.

That could help South Africans figure out if they have the more common flu, or should self-isolate to reduce the infection rate for the feared virus.

But this is not an on-demand test, Vardas says. Potential patients will be pre-screened and must present with symptoms and a travel history and/or had possible contact with people who may have been in contact with the virus, in order to get their results fast.

"Testing for now, even in private labs will be prioritised for individuals that fulfill epidemiological and clinical case definitions and only if referred by a doctor," said Lancet

The estimated turnaround time of the tests is 48 hours but this is dependent on where the sample is coming from, Lancet said. 

On Monday, Grayston Preparatory School in Sandton closed for the day, following concerns that one of its teachers had contact with the 10 people who recently returned from Italy, seven of whom have now tested positive for the virus.

Lancet Laboratories told CapeTalk it would collect epidemiological information on all test subjects to share with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Up to now the NICD was the only institution doing testing.

Going the private route and claiming from your medical will cost you if the tests come back negative.

A private SARS-CoV-2 test may be covered by medical aid – but not necessarily.

Discovery has indicated that if a test is positive, it will pay for everything from a special Covid-19 benefit. If it is negative, if will come out of the "savings account" members can use for day-to-day medical expenses.

Momentum said it will cover the costs of diagnosis and treatment, but for confirmed Covid-19 cases only.

Business Insider South Africa asked Momentum for confirmation of their policies on private testing, and will update this article when they respond.

*Discovery Health response on cover for tests: 

"To date, Lancet Laboratories has confirmed a price of R1 400 for the Covid-19 test, though we are in discussions with them to try reduce this price," said Dr Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery Health. 

"Diagnostic testing for confirmed Covid-19 cases will be paid from the bespoke World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Outbreak Benefit, in full, from Scheme risk funds."

All claims for negative tests from testing at private pathology laboratories, will be paid from the member’s available day to day pathology benefits. The NICD currently does not charge for testing of high risk cases, meeting the Covid-19 case definition which is largely defined by exposure to a confirmed infected person, or flu-like symptoms following exposure in a designated high risk region. 

Testing is only offered to those at high risk at this time.  Approximately 300 tests have been performed in SA. We have not received claims as the NICD has not charged for these tests.

Private labs have been granted approval to perform the testing as of 09 March 2020, though will apply similar criteria for testing as described above.

Follow these steps to minimise your chances of contracting the novel coronavirus:

  • Regularly wash your hands, thoroughly.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Reconsider travel, especially to countries where outbreaks of the virus have been reported.
  • Seek out credible sources of information, such as the WHO; misinformation is prevalent.

Who should be tested?

People who contract the Covid-19 virus may take anywhere from one to 14 days to develop symptoms.

The warning signs are acute or severe acute respiratory illnesses with a fever of 38°C or higher (or a history of fever) and a cough.

Anyone with a documented travel history to any of the countries where there is local transmission of Covid-19 within 14 days before symptoms started, or who has had close physical contact with a person who has Covid-19 while they showed symptoms is considered to be at higher risk.

Contact numbers

Doctors and patients are urged to contact the NICD directly on their hotline if they want testing to be done at NICD, vai  082 883 9920.

Doctors who want patients to be tested at Lancet Laboratories can call its virologist on call on 011 358 0800.

Latest update: Chaos on global markets, and a Sandton school closed

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