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DSI on Government’s Response to COVID- 19

March 30, 2020

Department of Science and Innovation

The science and innovation department is working with several partners to investigate the efficacy of repurposing existing drugs to assist in halting the COVID-19 virus.

The higher education, science and innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, revealed this during an inter-ministerial media briefing on government’s response to the COVID- 19 virus this week.

The minister added that R12 million has already been earmarked and an additional R30 million will be redirected for research interventions to combat the spread of the virus.

According to the minister, the department, its entities and other stakeholders were working on several projects to support COVID-19 interventions.

Preliminary work on the development of vaccines had started with the University of Cape Town, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Biovac.

“Progress is expected over the next 18 months,” said Dr Blade Nzimande.
The minister indicated that “one of the areas in which the national system of innovation (NSI) could make a significant impact in the crisis was enhancing the role of data and evidence in supporting the response to COVID-19”.

The NSI’s data and capabilities were being used by the health department, the presidency and the national command council to assist in decision-making.

“There is now widespread agreement on the need for a central situational awareness platform, which will provide a single view of the reality. The technology to rapidly deploy such a situational awareness platform exists at the CSIR (the CMORE system) and is now being customised to service the COVID-19 response. A facility is currently being established at the CSIR, but can easily be moved should this be required,” said the Minister.

According to the science and innovation department, the CMORE system can serve a wide range of users including the decision-making hierarchy and different types of first responders such as health workers, police and the army.

“An immediate functionality requested by the Department of Health for activation is to enable the 3 000 health workers involved in tracking and testing to transmit essential information to a central point via their cellphones.”