WHO sends health experts to South Africa to help fight COVID-19

A WHO team of more than 40 health experts deployed in South Africa to strengthen the country's COVID-19 response. (Source @WHOAFRO)

New Delhi (NVI): A new team of leading UN health experts is deployed in South Africa by the World Health Organization (WHO), to help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the southernmost country on the continent, now among the top five of the world’s most affected countries, WHO stressed that it is critical to strengthen its COVID-19 response.

“At this time when the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa is spreading rapidly, it is important that we work together to intensify our fight against the virus,” said Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative for South Africa.

However, to help manage the coronavirus pandemic, WHO will be deploying team of 43 experts from various fields, including seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, David Heymann, who headed the response to the 2003 epidemic of the closely-related viral respiratory disease, SARS.

WHO will be complementing scaled-up national and provincial responses to minimize the spread and impact of COVID-19.

“Our collective efforts are necessary to identify cases, isolate and provide care, follow up contacts and fully implement physical distancing and other key public health measures,” Kaluwa said.

WHO will also fund the international surge team and South Africa will provide administrative resources.

The team will be jointly led by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, and Executive Director of the agency’s Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, who will work virtually from Brazzaville, Congo, and Geneva respectively, to support the experts on the ground

“Dr Moeti and Dr Ryan have become familiar and trusted figures in the fight against COVID-19,” said Minister of Health Hon Dr Zweli Mkhize. “They have been supporting and complementing our national efforts and we have had very fruitful and honest discussions with them.”

Moreover, the health organization will greatly bolster efforts as seen how effective WHO interventions have been in countries like China, Spain, Italy, Mauritius and other countries that have been facing crisis like South Africa now.

Before their deployments in the provinces of Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal and Mpumalanga, the delegation completed an initial period of quarantine and testing, the WHO said.

“These provinces have been identified as the ones needing the most urgent support where the first team can make the most impact. As the remaining experts are deployed by WHO, all provinces in the country will benefit from their presence,” said Sandile Buthelezi, the Director General of Health.

At present, South Africa stands as the epicenter of COVID-19 in Africa with health experts warning that the rest of the continent may see a similar spread of the virus.