CAPRISA - contributing to the South African Covid-19 response

1 May 2020

CAPRISA has stepped  up to make a significant contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, CAPRISA’s Director has been appointed the over -arching Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 (MAC) that was established by Minister Zweli Mkhize. This committee includes 50 professionals from a diverse range of scientific and medical background to provide high level advice to the Minister of Health and the National Department of Health. In addition, the committee is required to use its expertise, linkages, resources and influence to help the department overcome obstacles, bottlenecks as identified by the National Departmental Health in its response to the coronavirus epidemic.  

The Ministerial Advisory Committee has 4 sub-committees: Laboratory services, chaired by Professor Koleka Mlisana; Clinical services chaired by Professor Marc Mendelson; Public Health, chaired by Professor Shabir Madhi; and Research chaired by Professor Glenda Gray. Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, CAPRISA’s Associate Scientific Director is a member of the Public Health sub-committee and is a member of the Executive Group of the International Steering Committee for the COVID-19 SOLIDARITY Trial. Professor Lynn Morris, Interim Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Honorary Senior Scientist at CAPRISA, is playing a leading role in COVID-19 testing in the country and is a member of the MAC laboratory sub-committee. 

President Ramaphosa, declared a national lockdown in South Africa effective at midnight on 26th March to mitigate the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and on 9th April the lockdown was extended to 30th April. These were unprecedented measures to control an unprecedented epidemic. On 13th April, President Ramaphosa and the National Covid-19 Command Council mandated the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize to hold a live zoom public engagement to deal with technical aspects relating to the country's COVID-19 response. 

This meeting was joined by experts on Covid-19 and Professor Salim Abdool Karim, delivered a presentation titled: ‘South Africa’s Covid-19 epidemic: Trends and next steps’ which was broadcast live on three national television channels.

In addition to the contribution to the MAC, CAPRISA is conducting several COVID-19 related studies including a prospective epidemiological and phylogenetic study to establish how the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus is spreading  in urban and rural KwaZulu-Natal in order to guide locally appropriate prevention and clinical care. Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim is providing support to the National Heath Laboratory Service (NHLS) for their testing outreach activities and Professors Nesri Padayatchi and Kogieleum Naidoo are supporting the Kwa-Zulu-Natal’s Provincial Department of Health’s response to COVID-19. 

The CAPRISA mobile clinic in the Umgungundhlovu district was assigned to pilot the outreach in Ward 9. The study received funding from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) through the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) for research on COVID-19 transmission.  

Watch Professor Abdool Karim’s presentation here: