ventilator
(Getty)
  • The National Ventilator Project, a joint initiative between government and business, aims to build 10,000 non-invasive ventilators in SA factories by the end of June.
  • The ventilators will be built according to a standard single design, which should be signed off this week. 
  • The design is expected to be quite simple, and may not use electricity.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.  

South Africa should have the clinically-approved standard design ready this week for a planned non-invasive ventilator that is due to start mass production before the end of the month.

South Africa's National Ventilator Project (NVP), a joint initiative 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.

Many proposed ventilator designs have been submitted to the NVP, Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive at the pharmaceutical company Aspen, told a media briefing on Tuesday morning. But none of them have fulfilled the requirements by the clinicians who are part of the NVP.

The NVP now has a design that clinicians agreed on, and it will be launched this week, Nicolaou said.

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. 

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.

READ | South Africa’s top scientists have been put in charge of manufacturing 10,000 ventilators by June

Nicolaou warned that South African can still expect a spike in Covid19 cases, though "we hope it will be a muted one."

He cautioned that the plan for ventilator production won’t be a “quick win”, but should bear fruit in the medium term, hopefully in time for the peak of local infections.

Nicolaou was speaking at a briefing arranged by Business for South Africa, a new organisation that coordinates the corporate response to the Covid19 crisis. He is the lead co-ordinator of the health workstreams at the organisation, which includes testing, vaccines and PPE.

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