’Covid-19 a stark reminder of Africa’s fragility without investment into science’
Pretoria - The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic should serve as a stark reminder that the African continent is fragile without huge investment into science and innovation.
This was said by epidemiologist Professor Quarraisha Karim, who was one of the speakers during the first day of the annual South Africa Science Forum 2020 which kicked off yesterday at the CSIR.
The three-day forum, hosted under the theme "Igniting conversations about science", will conclude tomorrow.
Quarraisha said the prevalence of coronavirus served to remind countries that they were interdependent on each other.
"We are reminded in Covid-19 about the importance of local and global solidarities," Quarraisha said.
She impressed on participants that political leadership, public engagement and partnerships were key in mounting a comprehensive and meaningful response to fight against epidemics.
“We have also learnt how fragile we are in Africa when we don’t drive innovation; when we don't drive things that we need, and we have to join the queue with better resourced nations. We saw that with PPEs and we are likely to see that with vaccines as well,” Quarraisha said.
Another elite speaker, epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim, reminded attendees about the first case of Covid-19 in the country on March 5.
“We had a rapidly growing epidemic. However, it was doubling after every two weeks for the first three weeks. We were tracking almost case for case with the UK. Our epidemics were racing neck and neck.
“On March 26, the day on which our lockdown started and about 12 days after our state of disaster was declared, our epidemic just turned. We flattened the curve," he said.
He also said that during the Covid-19 period science has become democratised.
"Covid-19 has made science accessible to everybody. Everybody is calculating science."
Karim talked about the difficulties faced by the government in implementing the lockdown without sufficient scientific backing.
“What happens when the evidence is limited as it was in March this year? We simply didn’t have evidence. There was no paper published on how we start and end the lockdown, for example.”
He also spoke about the importance of using science to fight social justice to make the world a better place.
Salim said: “In our march for science we have 7 000 people joining us and several organisations participating in the city streets in Durban, just to highlight the importance of science. We do so for climate change, for HIV and we do so for all aspects of science. “
Both Quarraisha and Karim, well-known for their work on HIV/Aids and the Covid-19 pandemic, were bestowed with the prestigious "500 years of the Strait of Magellan Award" in recognition of their pioneering scientific work and contribution to humanity.