Denel company logo is seen at the entrance of their business divisions in Pretoria. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Denel company logo is seen at the entrance of their business divisions in Pretoria. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Arms company Denel fights coronavirus by manufacturing ventilators

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published May 29, 2020

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Cape Town - Aerospace and military technology company Denel says two projects to design and manufacture urgently needed local ventilators for the treatment of Covid-19 patients have reached critical stages.

The projects by two separate divisions within the state-owned defence company both fall under Project Sabela, which is being co-ordinated by Denel in partnership with other state-owned entities, research bodies and companies in the private sector.

Denel Group chief executive Danie du Toit said: “Considerable progress has been made in the design stage since Project Sabela was launched in early April. The design and layout phases have been completed and simulation exercises to test the efficacy of the projects will start soon.”

Du Toit said: “We are optimistic about the potential to produce a low-cost, entry-level ventilator that can be used by the medical profession as the number of patients increase and the response levels are ramped up in the coming weeks.”

In a parallel initiative, Denel Land Systems has joined forces with Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory, Cambridge Aerothermal, Beko, Prodrive UK and Defy Appliances who manufacture domestic appliances, to produce a low-cost, full-function ventilator, the OVSI, that can be used by patients requiring ventilation at field hospitals, during transport, in normal hospitals and in intensive care units.

Denel spokesperson Pam Malinda said: “This medical ventilator will be made from easy-to-source materials. Denel Dynamics, a global leader in the design and manufacturing of advanced missile and precision-guided weapon systems, has switched its focus to the production of medical ventilators.

“The research team has evaluated a number of solutions proposed by companies across the world and eventually came up with its own design, a Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure device.”

“Other companies in the Denel group are also contributing towards the national response to the pandemic. Denel Aeronautics is providing technical support to the helicopter fleet of the South African Air Force which has been deployed in all nine provinces.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has said its Covid-19 data to date suggest that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe, requiring oxygen, and 5% are critical, requiring ventilation.

In papers filed with the high court in Pretoria this week, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma cited a study that said: “A systematic review concluded that smokers suffer more severely from Covid-19, being 2.4 times more likely to be admitted to an ICU, need mechanical ventilation or die compared to non-smokers.”

According to Premier Alan Winde, the Western Cape has 432 ventilators in place and has ordered 100 more to be used at the peak.


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Cape Argus

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