South Africa hopes to build 10 000 ventilators by end June – and up to 50 000 more if needed

Business Insider SA
The National Ventilator Project's reference design
  • South Africa's National Ventilator Project is now evaluating submissions from those who can help it get going on manufacturing devices before the end of April.
  • The project's target is to build 10 000 ventilators before the end of June, with the capacity to manufacture up to 50 000 more if needed for export, using only components readily available in SA, or made locally.
  • It is aiming for a simple, non-invasive system that helps patients get oxygen by delivering it at higher than ambient pressure, which can hopefully help in the majority of Covid-19 cases.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

South Africa hopes to be building ventilators before the end of April, with a target of manufacturing 10 000 devices by the end of June, with the capacity to build up to 50 000 more if necessary.

Just how many ventilators are ultimately built is likely to depend on the needs of other countries, and the extent to which they can ramp up their own manufacturing.

Last year the world required less than 80 000 new ventilators to satisfy demand. By some estimates the United States alone now needs roughly that many ventilators to deal with Covid-19.

South Africa has around 6 000 ventilators available in public and private hospitals; how many are needed for local use is likely to depend on the extent to which the national lockdown, and other measures to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, succeed.

With global supply chains facing unprecedented demand, South Africa's National Ventilator Project (NVP) aims to build locally, using only parts and materials "that are readily available in large quantities on the commercial market or can be manufactured locally in South Africa".

The project is now evaluating proposals from companies and organisations that can help achieve that goal, after an outpouring of offers to help from industries of every sort.

See also: Denel is making ventilators, and may turn its casspirs into ambulances

The NVP envisages a simple, non-invasive design that mixes pure oxygen with air and helps get that mixture into patients' lungs by delivering it at higher than ambient pressure.

This, its clinical team says, should help in the majority of cases where Covid-19 sufferers require hospitalisation, without the complexity of intubating systems, which would also slow down manufacturing.

In practice that means a hood, with a seal around the neck or shoulders and straps that run under each arm. The hood's supply system can be hooked up either to a free-standing oxygen bottle or the piped oxygen supply of a hospital. Exhaled air will be filtered for viruses, to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus in medical facilities.

Ideally the system will not require electricity. 

If all goes to plan, a design will be finalised this week, with large-scale manufacturing to start soon after.

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