Business for SA’s (BSA) Public Health Workgroup (PHW) has secured personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers to the tune of R400 million mainly from China that should arrive in South Africa within the next four to six weeks. This is on top of a donation of more than 200 000 masks and gloves from the Motsepe Foundation and a shipment of PPE worth around R1 million that arrived in South Africa from China last week.

The new shipment that includes one million sterile gloves, 1.12 million N95 masks, 6 million surgical masks for healthcare workers, 8.5 million masks for patients and 200 ventilators was bought with money from government’s Solidarity Fund, several corporate donors including Naspers and the Motsepe Foundation.  Another R360 million has been allocated for the purchasing of PPE, the leader of the PHW, Stavros Nicolaou from Aspen said at a BSA media briefing this morning.

South Africa is experiencing a dire shortage of PPE as the country only had enough stock for a normal situation in the beginning of last month but following an impassionate plea by the PHW for donations of PPE, local and international companies have pledged stock while money from the Solidarity Fund and the other donors were secured.  The expectation is that the PPE will be arriving in South Africa before the expected peak in COVID-19 infections in the next three months. 

Last night, the chair of government’s  COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, Prof Salim Abdool Karim said that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to implement the lockdown on 26 March and the subsequent extension to the end of this month have changed the trajectory of the spread of the virus in South Africa with it now being the only country in the world where the increase of cases has flattened because community transmission has been kept much lower than in other countries. However, he warned that South Africa is not expected to escape the exponential threat of the virus and that a spike in cases and hospital admissions are expected from the middle of August to September.  In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Commission on Health over the weekend, acting Health Director General, Dr Anban Pillay submitted projections that showed that in the worst-case scenario, Gauteng could see 1.5 million infections by the end of winter followed by KwaZulu-Natal with a million.

At this morning’s media conference Nicolaou said that he believed that South Africa has the capacity to test about 25 000 people per day. According to figures supplied by the Department of Health this afternoon (14 April), a total of 87 000 people has been tested up until now with around 5000 tests now being done per day.