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WHO deploys “surge” team to help South Africa stem Covid-19

Non-communicable diseases increase Covid-19 risk in Africa
Written by Kalay Nair

The World Health Organisation has deployed a team of experts to help the government stem the coronavirus infections in South Africa. The country is one of the five countries most affected by the pandemic.

Seventeen health experts in various medical fields arrive in South Africa today to assist in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The team will be deployed to the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

“These provinces have been identified as the ones needing the most urgent support where the first team can make the most impact. As the remaining experts are deployed by WHO, all provinces in the country will benefit from their presence,” says Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the Director General of Health.

WHO sends in global experts

The WHO will send 43 experts in total to South Africa.  They are experts in epidemiology, surveillance, case management, infection, prevention and control, procurement, as well as community mobilization and health education.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the surge team will bolster South Africa’s efforts against the pandemic.

“We have seen how effective their interventions have been in countries like China, Spain, Italy, Mauritius and other countries that have been through what we are facing now,” Mkhize says.

Dr David Heymann is one of the experts. A seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, he headed the response to the SARS epidemic in 2003.

Response must be a collective effort

WHO’s representative for South Africa, Dr Owen Kaluwa says the collaboration is vital as the coronavirus spreads rapidly in the country.

“Our collective efforts are necessary to identify cases, isolate and provide care, follow up contacts and fully implement physical distancing and other key public health measures. In this way we will minimise the spread and impact of COVID19.”

It will be jointly led by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa and Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. They will work virtually from Brazzaville and Geneva to support the team on the ground.

“I believe our joint efforts with South African health experts will help flatten the curve and save lives,” says Dr Moeti.

The team on the ground will test for Covid-19 and will quarantine before being cleared to start working. They will focus on improving case management to reduce the burden on hospitals and working for higher community buy-in so that public health measure will be better followed.

WHO will fund the international surge team and South Africa will provide administrative resources.- Health-e News

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Kalay Nair