By Ashok Ramsarup :: While countries around the world grapples with the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a South African university is planning to what has been described as a groundbreaking Campus Health “War Room” in a bid to fight the virus on the African continent. A date of the launch is expected to be announced soon.
According to the latest statistics 92,809 Coronavirus Caseshave been reported. Three-thousand-and 164 were reported deaths and 48,469 were recovered from the disease. China, which had been the epicenter of the disease recorded 80,152cases and 2,945 deaths.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) which has five campuses, which is situated in Durban in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, has become among the first in Africa, has created an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, the hashtag: #ukzncovid19 that staff and students can make enquiries about the deadly disease. The University is in the process of creating a hotline which will aid in communicating with variousstakeholders about the virus.
UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Pokusaid: “The threat of the new Coronavirus is compelling motivation why the University, need to constantly be alert and put in place pro-active and pro-response mechanisms to combat diseases and illnesses.”
Professor Poku said: “The rampant COVID-19 pandemic has already spread to several continents and there are no signs of the disease abating.
“Starting today, the University’s College of Health Sciences, headed by its Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor BusisiweNcama, has instituted a large-scale high level surveillance, prevention and response measures to make sure that we are ready for when COVID-19 is detected in our vicinity
“The aim of “War Room” is to offer a co-ordinated cohesive strategy for preparedness, and will require each and every one of us to get involved. We believe in this instance, prevention is better than cure. Given the high concentration of people on our campuses (students and staff), prevention and protection against the spread of disease is critical,” Professor Poku added.
The project will be led by a strong team under the auspices ofProfessor Mosa Moshabela, the Dean and Head of School: Nursing and Public Health. Among the team include experts, including, Dr Velile Ngidi, Public Health Medicine Registrar; DrRichard Lessells, Infectious Disease Specialist; Dr SaajidaMahomed, Public Health Medicine Specialist UKZN; DrLilishia Gounder, Clinical Virologist; Dr Nokukhanya Msomi, Head of Virology at UKZN; and Dr Saloshni Naidoo, Head of Public Health Medicine.
Members of UKZN Occupational Health and Campus Health Services, Mr Muzi Mthembu, Ms Gugulethu Mdunge, Ms Jane Taylor, Ms Nozipho Jali, and Ms Jabu Hlophe will also form part of the team to ensure institutional readiness for COVID-19.
Professor Poku said: “The University is committed to putting in place measures to strengthen these essential campus health services before the campus is hit by the virus.”
The team heading the project will also co-opt experts and volunteers from various colleges, schools, disciplines, travel, and other university structures and student communities to assist in awareness and provide expert advice.
Professor Poku commented: “The objective is the immediate launch of a multi-disciplinary Campus Health ‘War Room’ toprovide the necessary evidence and guidance to effectively respond to COVID-19, and this may include a policy of quarantine, including self-quarantine, in all possible cases of exposure for the duration of the incubation period, and based on any requirements by the health authorities such as the Department of Health, National Institute for Control of Disease (NICD), and the World Health Organisation (WHO)”.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa