A doctor puts on surgical gloves before carrying o
  • Business for South Africa estimates that the country has about a month's worth of sterile gloves, surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) left.
  • The organisation has, however, secured a R400m shipment of stock from China, which should arrive in the next few weeks.
  • As government ramps up Covid-19 testing, the organisation believes there is currently enough capacity to test 25,000 people a day.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

South Africa has only about a month's worth of stock of sterile gloves, surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) left, as it scrambles to secure scarce supplies locally and around the globe.

At a Business for South Africa media briefing on Tuesday morning, Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive at the pharmaceutical company Aspen, warned that the country has about four weeks' worth of stock left for frontline medical staff and other essential healthworkers. While the subsiding coronavirus crisis in China has freed up some of its capacity to export PPE, some 180 countries are all currently vying for the same medical equipment.

Business for SA, a new organisation that coordinates the corporate response to the Covid-19 crisis, has secured R400 million in PPE, mainly from China. The stock, which includes one million sterile gloves, 1.12 million N95 masks, 6 million surgical masks for healthcare workers, 8.5 million masks for patients and 200 ventilators, should arrive within the next four to six weeks. The money for the shipment came from the Solidarity Fund, as well as corporate donors including Naspers and the Motsepe Foundation. Another R360 million will be spent on PPE soon.

As government ramps up Covid-19 testing, Nicolaou believes that there is currently enough capacity to test 25,000 people a day. Some 10,000 field workers will do testing in different South African areas.

So far, more than 80,000 people in total have been tested in both the state and private healthcare system. On Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that 5,032 people were tested in a single day on the weekend. Of those tests, 3,192 were done in state laboratories.

South Africa is launching the mass production of ventilators this month, and Nicolaou expects that the standard design for the ventilators will be released this week.

READ | The design of SA’s first ventilator for mass production is expected within days

South Africa's National Ventilator Project (NVP) – a joint venture between government and business – aims to build 10,000 ventilators in SA factories by the end of June, using only parts and materials that are readily available in large quantities or can be manufactured locally.

So far, arms manufacturer Denel, appliance group Defy and other companies plan to help produce ventilators.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman

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