Pretoria News

Pan­demic forces halt to US-SA ini­tia­tives

- LIAM NGOBENI liam.ngobeni@inl.co.za Health · South Africa News · Society · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · South Africa · Africa · United States of America · U.S. government · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Catch-22 · South African government

THE COVID-19 pan­demic has halted sev­eral ini­tia­tives – from ex­ten­sive ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes to in­vest­ment sum­mits ear­marked to em­power South Africa.

US am­bas­sador to South Africa Lana Marks said the pan­demic had halted pro­grammes they had planned to roll out and others such as the Peace Corps.

Marks said the US and South Africa had a long and ex­ten­sive re­la­tion­ship in terms of ed­u­ca­tion aimed at shar­ing skills and knowl­edge and elim­i­nat­ing cul­tural bar­ri­ers.

“We have a stu­dent ex­change, agri­cul­tural and post­grad­u­ate pro­grammes. The in­ter­fac­ing was amaz­ing with many pro­grammes in ev­ery sin­gle area across the board.”

She said the out­break de­layed the progress, but they were look­ing for­ward to re­sum­ing the pro­grammes.

“It was heart-warm­ing to see the re­sponses. In the past two weeks, R120 bil­lion has been do­nated by US com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in South Africa.”

The US gov­ern­ment has also com­mit­ted ad­di­tional funds to sup­port South Africa’s re­sponse to the Covid-19 pan­demic. “This fund­ing will sup­port the South African gov­ern­ment’s crit­i­cal needs, in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance rapid re­sponse, case man­age­ment and risk com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

She said the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion was pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to South Africa’s Depart­ment of Health and Na­tional In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases, fo­cused on con­tain­ing the spread of the virus and mit­i­gat­ing its im­pact.

These ef­forts in­clude pub­lic health ex­perts as­sist­ing part­ners in de­vel­op­ing guide­lines for risk com­mu­ni­ca­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, iso­la­tion, test­ing and con­tact trac­ing for per­sons un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for Covid-19.

She said a virus shed­ding pro­to­col was also be­ing de­vel­oped to es­ti­mate dis­ease bur­den, risk fac­tors and trans­mis­sion dy­nam­ics, which would help in­form pub­lic health pro­to­cols to stop trans­mis­sion of the dis­ease and save lives. “On the front line, Amer­ica has de­ployed staff here to sup­port data en­try ac­tiv­i­ties and sup­port at the pro­vin­cial level.”

She said in terms of ac­count­abil­ity for funds do­nated the ap­proach was to not hand over large amounts but rather to pro­vide tech­ni­cal and med­i­cal sup­port.

Marks com­mended South Africa’s swift re­sponse to the virus and said it was a Catch-22 sit­u­a­tion in terms of re­open­ing and risk­ing a resur­gence of the virus, it was also dev­as­tat­ing to the econ­omy and per­sonal psy­che of peo­ple. “No one was ready for this, there is no con­tin­gency plan, there are no easy so­lu­tions.

“Once things are un­der con­trol glob­ally and a vac­cine is avail­able, we are still un­der the un­known and we won’t have 100% right an­swers.”

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