South Africa takes stock of its vital medical supplies

By Christi Nortier 7 April 2020

Workers sort out all the personal protective equipment (PPE) received from China at a warehouse in Valencia, Spain, 25 March 2020. EPA-EFE/JUAN CARLOS CARDENAS / POOL

Things changed overnight in South Africa on 15 March, and it won’t be the last time it does. Daily Maverick’s Daily Digest will provide the essential bits of information about Covid-19 in South Africa and the world each day. Please do read on to understand these issues more deeply.

Gauteng has almost half of South Africa’s Covid-19 infections within its borders. How does the smallest and most densely populated province manage the task of flattening the curve? Leading the province’s Covid-19 response is obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Bandile Masuku. Ferial Haffajee spoke to him about why this crisis is also an opportunity.


Ventilators are a rare resource around the globe at the moment, so Elna Schütz investigated how many South Africa has right now and whether it is thought to be enough. Public and private healthcare authorities were hesitant to commit to a figure, but said there is enough — for the moment. Already companies in South Africa have started work on manufacturing ventilators to decrease the country’s dependence on imports.

It still stands that by the end of this month it is hoped that South Africa will be able to conduct 36,000 Covid-19 tests a day. To bolster capacity a TB machine, called the GeneXpert, will be repurposed to test for Covid-19. 

It can conduct at least four tests at a time and produces results within 45 minutes. South Africa has set aside 180 of these machines to test for the virus. As Elsabé Brits writes, laboratory capacity is also being increased and antibody tests might also soon be available.

There is currently no treatment for Covid-19, however symptoms can be eased. (Source: National Institute for Communicable Diseases)


The announcement last week that government will start tracking people with Covid-19 using cell phone location data may have come as a shock to some, but not for media and surveillance expert Professor Jane Duncan who has been keeping tabs on the ever-changing position since the lockdown began. She talks us through how it got to this point and how it compares to international best (and worst) practices.

Later this week, it is expected that SA Rugby will officially announce pay cuts for all its staff, including contracted players. The company is set to lose R200-million in the next few months, so has had to make the cuts to stay afloat. Craig Ray outlines the negotiations that got them to this point. DM


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