South Africa: Ventilator for COVID-19

South Africa’s defence and technology company Denel is designing and developing a prototype for a medical ventilator that will be locally produced to treat novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. It will do so in a partnership with other state-owned entities, research bodies and medical technology companies.

In severe cases, the COVID-19 virus may cause pneumonia and acute respiratory syndrome that demand a medical ventilator to assist critical patients breathe.

To combat this, Project Sabela has been launched. Project Sabela is a task team constituted by experts from entities such as Denel, the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Department of Defence acquisition agency), Eskom (South Africa’s public utility for electricity) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa’s central and premier scientific research and development organisation).

“We are still in the early stages of the project, but we are optimistic that this local initiative will help to alleviate the dire need for medical ventilators that are required in great numbers at both public and private hospitals,” said Danie du Toit, group chief executive at Denel, as quoted in a statement from Denel.

“Through Project Sabela, we are now focusing all our efforts on the current medical and humanitarian crisis facing South Africa and the world,” added Du Toit. “We are confident that we will soon make huge strides in the development of locally-designed ventilators at a time when global shortages are experienced.”

Based on Unmask Africa’s tally, South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Africa with 1,686 cases, followed by Algeria (1,423) and Egypt (1,322).

Denel is also considering producing sanitisers and converting its Casspir mine-protected vehicles into ambulances. These will be the outcomes of changing the focuses of current operations and technology.

Casspir vehicles are “highly mobile and versatile vehicle used extensively in conflict zones in demining and protection operations”, according to a statement from the defence and technology company.

Manufacturer of small- and medium-calibre ammunition Denel PMP is looking into “options to produce sanitisers for industrial and medical uses once the product certification issues have been clarified. Many of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of explosives can also be utilised to make sanitisers,” the statement added.

South Africa imposed a nationwide 21-day “stay at home” lockdown limiting citizens’ movement from 26th March, as means to curb the spread of the virus. Some of the other measures of this lockdown include the suspension of all commuter and long-distance passenger rail services, international and domestic flights as well as cruise ships.

As reported by Unmask Africa, Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar and United Kingdom medical company Mologic Ltd are in the process of developing a test kit that will be locally produced, provide results within 10 minutes and cost $1 USD per piece.

Unmask Africa’s tally further outlines that Africa has registered an overall of 10,512 cases, 1,020 (9.7%) recoveries and 491 (4.7%) fatalities. 53 of the continent’s 58 countries, dependencies and other territories have confirmed infections.

The World Health Organisation recently said Africa’s window to curb the virus is narrowing. According to the United Nations, Africa may be two to three weeks away from the peak of the virus’s outbreak in the region.

Reporting by Gaby Ndongo. Editing by Kupa Kambasha. Feature image by Pixabay.

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