The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 is chaired by Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who is a world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist.
The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 is chaired by Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who is a world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist.

What you need to know about the team of experts helping to fight coronavirus in SA

By Kuben Chetty Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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Durban -  Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has created a team of over 50 expert advisors who he can turn  to for guidance on critical health issues as the country tries to prevent the spread of the c oronavirus pandemic. 

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 is chaired by  Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who is a world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious  diseases epidemiologist. The committee works in the background, bringing together  scientific evidence and experience to provide to the Minister and the Department of Health.

The advice shared with Mkhize takes the form of guidelines that the department will release  or advice on specific topics to help Mkhize to make the best decisions in our country’s fight  against the Coronavirus.

This is what you need to know about the advisory committee. 

Why an Advisory Committee?

South Africa has chosen to respond to the Coronavirus armed with the best available  information and evidence. Since SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus and the disease it causes,  Covid-19 is a completely new disease , Mkhize called on our country’s experts with experience in dealing with  other epidemics, particularly those tackling epidemics caused by viruses like HIV.

Who is on the Ministerial Advisory Committee?

Doctors and specialists in infectious diseases, virologists, epidemiologists, public health  practitioners, mathematical modellers, laboratory specialists, social scientists and health  care experts from across the country.

Sub committees

There are sub-committees dealing with clinical matters, laboratory testing, public health  strategies and research. 

The committee of clinicians, chaired by Professor Marc Mendelson of the University of Cape  Town, is working on the guidelines which includes how to determine what is a case, deciding  on admission criteria, what approaches should be taken as to who gets a ventilator.

The laboratory testing committee, chaired by Professor Koleka Mlisana of the National  Health Laboratory Service, is advising on how to scale up testing and what test kits are best.

The public health committee, chaired by Professor Shabir Madhi of Wits University, is  focusing on what the public health response should be. This committee’s advice was sought  on the plan to deploy 10 000 community health workers who will go out to do field screening  and testing.

The fourth committee is the research committee, chaired by Professor Glenda Gray of the  Medical Research Council.

What’s next in the government's coronavirus response? 

“The Committee includes many from the cream of South Africa’s experts, and scientists and  clinicians. They are people who understand how viruses spread and the challenges we face  as individuals, families, communities and a nation to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.  They are a multi-disciplinary team including public health practitioners, epidemiologists,  clinicians and mathematical modellers,” said Abdool Karim.

Abdool Karim said they were relying heavily on the Chinese experience and are trying to  avoid the pattern followed in Italy, where many deaths occurred. 

“We draw from their  research and experiences. Most of the countries that have gone into lockdown have followed  the Chinese approach. The United States is not following this model, except in some states,  for their own reasons and are now the worst affected country in the world,” he said. 

South Africa showed strong leadership in taking the bold step of a lockdown, he said. 

In  China, their lockdown was quite effective with no new local cases of coronavirus reported  in that country over the past week. 

“They are now having their second small epidemic which  is imported cases of people travelling from other countries to China," said Abdool Karim .

Even after the  lockdown in our country is over, we will need to take every precaution to prevent the c oronavirus from spreading here again.”

Political Bureau

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