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COVID-19 Information Centre Under the Spotlight

April 16, 2020

Department of Science and Innovation

President Ramaphosa recently praised the work of the COVID-19 Information Centre.

At the end of last week, the president visited the data centre set up to monitor and track the spread of the novel coronavirus across South Africa.

Located in a secure facility at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, the Information Centre “provides near real-time analytics and dashboards on the coronavirus outbreak per province, district, local municipality and ward”.

It also provides a “central situational awareness platform designed to give a single view of the reality of the spread of the coronavirus across the country”.

The science and innovation department is working on a number of projects to support government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic including the Information Centre.

“Among the centre’s capabilities is the CMORE app, a mobile visualisation platform used by community health workers to record screening data and symptoms in the field and transmit the information to the centre. The app enables a near-live display of the results of the work being conducted by the government’s Household Screening and Testing Programme.”

The work of the National Coronavirus Command Council is enhanced by data and insights generated by the Centre.

Meanwhile, in a briefing on trends and next steps on COVID-19 earlier this week, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the ministerial advisory group on COVID-19, declared that the exponential spread of COVID-19 in South Africa is not avoidable.

Once the lockdown ends, South Africa’s population will be at high risk.

Professor Karim indicated that government interventions have slowed the virus spread, the curve has been impacted and time has been gained.

The delay has been important as new, quicker and simpler diagnostics are becoming available, new treatments are becoming available and the country bought time to prepare for medical care needs.

Karim recommended that South Africa continue to follow lockdown rules and monitor community transmission by average daily cases and community positivity/screened this week.

He added that community transmission levels will guide the next steps and how long the lockdown remains in force.

Karim proposed that if average daily cases are less than 44, then the lockdown should be eased.

However, the lockdown needs to be systematically eased over several days.

The focus should now shift to stage 5 of hotspot identification and intervention to stage 6 – preparing for peak medical care response and stage 8 – vigilance and national surveillance.

A voluntary partial lockdown until the end of September for old people and those with co-morbidities to reduce exposure was recommended.