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COVID-19 Data System at the CSIR Under the Spotlight

July 20, 2020

Department of Science and Innovation

The setting up of the COVID-19 data system at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is one of the COVID-19 interventions currently underway.

The science and innovation department announced this during a briefing in parliament on its special budget allocations and impact on delivery.

Other interventions highlighted include the development of COVID-19 indigenous knowledge-based remedies; the development and manufacturing of testing kits and reagents, including rapid tests; study for repurposing of drugs; acquisition of high-resolution satellite imagery for settlement layer and mapping of spaza shops and hotspots; ongoing work to build a robust evidence base on human behaviours and perceptions; the deployment of additive manufacturing (3D) printing technologies for various COVID-19 requirements; support for ventilator development and targeted support to technology stations to assist SMEs with technology support so that they can respond/ adapt to changing requirements resulting from COVID-19.

The department also reported that R15 million has been made available to co-fund a special research fund for an African rapid response to COVID-19.

This will be administered by the National Research Foundation for cooperation with 15 other African countries.

Meanwhile, in its briefing on the impact of parliamentary grant cuts and the lockdown, the CSIR outlined its national response to COVID-19.

Interventions include the:

• designing and development of a 100% local continuous positive airway pressure ventilator under contract to the Solidarity Fund following approval by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority;
• the designing, development and delivery of medical quality protective facial shields to the South African National Defence Force;
• the modelling of the spread of COVID-19 for forecasts of cases and deaths and for decision-making on ICU beds, ventilators, lockdown measures for the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, working with SAMRC, UP and Wits;
• the creation of an interactive map of vulnerable communities for the National Disaster Management Centre to indicate where efforts should be focused;
• the creation of an information centre for the health department and the expansion of this concept to a decision-support centre for other departments and agencies;
• the development of a mobility platform that provides anonymised data on the movement of people to help understand movement patterns across high-risk areas, monitor lockdown compliance and help with tracing;
• the creation of scenarios on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses to inform government on the most appropriate support tools and packages for each sector;
• the repurposing of a lab to do COVID-19 testing and serve as surge capacity for the National Health Laboratory Services (capacity 15 000 samples a week);
• the development of a one-step enzyme-based PCR test kit that rapidly detects SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA and amplifies it;
• the starting of work to generate candidate products to treat COVID-19 from six selected medicinal plants and two herbal mixtures that are indigenous to SA –as part of a DSI consortium: and
• the starting of investigations into scientific and clinical certification of Prijap Biolife traditional medicine, known for immune-building, anti-inflammatory activities as potential treatment of SARS-CoV-2.