In a virtual meeting held with SA editors on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted how the bulk of the masks, ventilators and testing kits were still being procured from China and distributed across the continent.
Ramaphosa said he had appointed an envoy for the continent “to scour the world for diagnostic and medical supplies” which would assist SA in its fight against the virus.
“We have been able to have great success in the last few days of getting the suppliers in China to agree to make available up to 30-million test kits per month for us on the African continent. They will also make available 10,000 ventilators per month and 80-million masks per month for our continent and what we are doing is to now set up a procurement platform which we are going to launch next week,” he said.
This platform would allow every African county to be able to procure from a central place and benefit from the scale on which this envoy would be buying.
“We are also adding our own [SA suppliers] to that platform,” Ramaphosa said.
“SA suppliers who are making our masks and ventilators are also going to be put on this platform and other suppliers and manufacturers on our continent,” he added.
“So we are building a huge platform that is going to enable countries on our continent to acquire these diagnostic and therapeutic medical supplies with greater ease and, as we launch it, we will explain how the procurement process will work,” Ramaphosa added.
He said since the procurements would be done on such a large scale, this would also open doors for the airline industry, particularly the troubled SAA.
“We have said we will fetch those supplies … And these will be transported through SAA, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airways. So Johannesburg will become the hub. Addis Ababa will become another hub,” he said.
“So this is going to give a great boost to SAA because this process will be going on for many months to come,” Ramaphosa added.
He has continued to express confidence in the manner in which SA has tackled the coronavirus pandemic, saying over 13-million South Africans have been screened and almost a million have been tested.
“This is a phenomenal achievement looked against what is happening in other countries but more particularly on our own continent. We are testing much more than others but we will not stand on rooftops and boast about this like others do,” he said.
With millions of people set to return to work on Monday as the country enters lockdown level 3, which will see businesses and companies resume operations, Ramaphosa said the screening and testing efforts would also need to be beefed up.
“As people return to work and schooling as well, we will be significantly expanding the screening efforts to all places where people congregate. However, with such a high proportion of asymptomatic cases, we need to complement screening with a range of other preventive measures. We also need to be more targeted with our testing due to the global shortage of test kits and supplies,” he said.
One aspect in which SA was lacking was its contact tracing.
Ramaphosa said SA traced an average of two contacts for each confirmed case of the coronavirus whereas other countries were identifying 20 contacts per case.
“[That] is quite phenomenal and that is where we want to get to,” Ramaphosa said.