Medical officials attend to Covid-19 patients at the Nasrec quarantine and isolation site. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DINO LLOYD
Medical officials attend to Covid-19 patients at the Nasrec quarantine and isolation site. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DINO LLOYD

The Solidarity Fund, which was created to help support SA’s health and welfare response to the Covid-19 crisis, has earmarked R1.9bn for the country’s health interventions as the number of infections surge.

On Friday, CEO Nomkhita Nqweni said the fund was moving to the second phase of its intervention, which is largely focused on health work and the health response.

To date the fund has received R3.02bn in pledges with almost the full amount being converted and deposited into its bank account. Nqweni said almost 300,000 individuals have donated to the fund. The R1.9bn for the health response comes out of the total R3.02bn.

After an initially slow start, SA’s Covid-19 crisis has accelerated sharply in the past few weeks. The number of confirmed cases in the country has exceeded the 320,000 mark, worse than the UK, Spain and Iran.

The crisis is exposing the fragility of the public health system, and placing strain on private hospitals, which are seeing Covid-19 admissions soar in many parts of the country.

The Solidarity Fund’s head of healthcare Jonathan Broomberg said that while the Western Cape seems to have peaked, many provinces, especially Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, are heading into [a peak}, and so the fund needs to focus on the health response.

He said funding of R405m would be provided for critical medical equipment for hot-spots such as Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. The fund is providing hospital equipment to two new field-hospitals being built in Gauteng, in Nasrec, Johannesburg and in Tshwane.

Broomberg said the fund has invested R250m towards the local manufacture of 20,000 ventilators, the majority of which are being manufactured by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and others by a consortium of manufacturers.

SA imports 92% of all medical equipment with only 8% locally produced. He said part of the focus is to leave some type of legacy by starting to invest as much as possible in local manufacturing.

The department of trade, industry and competition said on Friday that the CSIR has started production on an order of 10,000 ventilators that will be delivered over the next two months.

It said negotiations with other entities is now in process. The CSIR anticipates that the first batch of 2,000 ventilators would be delivered within the next few weeks, with further units delivered by mid-August, and the balance by the beginning of September.

Broomberg said the Solidarity Fund has donated 20-million units of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks. These were allocated by the national health department to provinces and healthcare facilities.

He said the fund has received a request from medical schools for additional PPE to protect students in later years when working on general wards. A total of 1-million surgical masks have been donated for this.

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